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Over the weekend the media became very excited about a leaked letter from the Gauteng ANC provincial executive to its branches.
In it the PEC provided a list of names which they asked the branches in Gauteng to consider during the nomination process for the positions of national office bearers and NEC members at the end of the year.
Only in one instance did they link a name to a position, namely that of president. The name was Cyril Ramaphosa and this is what the media focused on.
Of course there is, or should be, no surprise in Ramaphosa being nominated for the top job in Gauteng, since he has always had very strong support in that province.
However, what is far more interesting is the rest of the list of suggested names. They are (in this order) Lindiwe Sisulu, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zweli Mkhize, Gwede Mantashe, David Mabuza, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, Senzo Mchunu, Vuyelwa (presumably Vuyiswa) Tulelo, Paul Mashatile and Jessie Duarte.
This list of 10 additional names features at least five strong Zuma/Dlamini-Zuma supporters, which seems strange for a so-called Ramaphosa province.
Compare this to other lists from regions in KwaZulu-Natal for example, which reads like this: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, David Mabuza, Nathi Mthethwa, Ace Magashule, Jessie Duarte, Maite Mashabane, Nomvula Mokonyane. No question about who they support.
Also interesting is the order in which the Gauteng PEC's suggestions appear. Despite the fact that the letter states that they will later make suggestions for specific positions, why does Paul Mashatile (the provincial chairperson) come in second last – below Mkhize, Mabuza, Potgieter-Gqubule and Tulelo?
With so many Zuma/Dlamini-Zuma supporters, this list seems to suggest a province or at least a provincial executive that is far more divided than previously thought.
More importantly, it also seems to give a strong indication of an attempt to find a compromise list for the top positions. As stated before, the ANC is desperate to avoid another deeply divisive election.
The narrative of unity is at the order of the day and when it comes to the crunch, those who can negotiate a list reflecting or at least pretending to encapsulate such unity will most likely be victorious.
Those who are represented on the lists from both sides of the divide have a far stronger chance to be successful on such a unity list and that seems to feature people such as Mabuza, Mkhize, Mantashe and in some instances even Dlamini-Zuma.
There is another interesting line in the letter from the Gauteng PEC to its branches. It reads: "Following further engagements within the province and with other provinces, (my emphasis) the names will be further discussed by the PEC for the purposes of placing them in specific positions."
There is always a bit of horse trading between provinces when it comes to the slates, but the very deliberate and formal inclusion of these words raises further interesting questions.
Why would this process of "engagements" be necessary if the purpose of this letter was only to suggest a list of names to branches – who would presumably then make up their own minds as to whom they want to nominate?
Could it be that this is a subtle hint of a deal which will be or possibly has already been negotiated prior to the conference? With kingmaker Mabuza so prominent on the list it seems to suggest that this is highly possible.
It is well known that Mabuza has been playing a key role to try and negotiate a pre-agreed list of at least some of the office bearers. Only time will tell if he could ultimately pull it off.
In the meantime as more and more of the approximately 4 000 branches submit their lists of nominations, it is vitally important not to only look at the nomination for the top position, but the common denominators between these lists.
This could give us the best indication as to the direction the ANC will choose in December.
- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland. Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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