Melanie Verwoerd

Why are the Zuma branches so quiet?

2017-11-08 09:48
Comrades in contestation: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma shares a moment with Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre. (Picture: Leon Sadiki)

Comrades in contestation: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma shares a moment with Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre. (Picture: Leon Sadiki)

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There is currently a persistent stream of WhatsApp messages declaring ANC branch nomination results in various regions.

These seem to all suggest that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is far behind her main rival, Cyril Ramaphosa. However, close inspection of the figures tell an interesting story.

It is important to note that the most comprehensive compilation of results available, still only accounts for the outcome of between 50% and 70% of the total number of branch nominations in all the provinces, except for the so-called premier league provinces.

Curiously, there have been very few results from North West, Free State or Mpumalanga. These are the premier league provinces with reportedly strong support for Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ) and the broader Zuma ticket.

Which raises the question as to why that is?

Either these branches, let’s call them the NDZ branches, are keeping the results very close to their chests or they are not having the branch general meetings (BGMs) where nominations have to be made. For the meeting to be quorate, at least 50% plus one of total members are required to be present, which means that there would always be at least 51 people at these BGMs. With that number of people in the know, it is difficult to believe that the results would not leak out.

So it seems reasonable to deduct that many, if not most, of the branches in the premier league provinces have not held their BGMs. Since all BGMs are supposed to have been conducted by mid-November, it leaves just one week for these branches to have these BGMs.

So why leave it so late?

There are a few possible explanations.

Firstly, it is possible that the Zuma camp would like to delay as long as possible in order to see the extent of support for Ramaphosa. Many Ramaphosa supporters seem to believe that if his support is beyond what the Zuma camp had bargained on, the Zuma supporters will simply "manipulate the process in their favour".

This could include not having the BGMs, or to cause enough disruption to prevent these BGMs from going ahead. Branches who have not held the BGMs cannot be represented at the conference and if it turns out to be a significant enough number – say half or even a third – it would be difficult to see how the conference could go ahead.

I have always maintained that the Zuma camp will only allow the conference to go ahead if they are reasonably sure that they would win.

If you look at the results so far, it is clear that Ramaphosa can only win if he gets at least 25% of the premier league, 35%-40% of KZN and the equivalent of 80% in all the other provinces. Anything less and it is either too close to call, or a win for Dlamini-Zuma.

It is highly probable that the power brokers in the premier league provinces would first want to see the extent of Ramaphosa’s support outside of the premier league provinces before they have their BGMs, or indeed if they have them at all. If they aren’t confident of at least 75% of support for their candidate in the premier league provinces, there is a very good chance that they would try to sabotage the Electoral Conference.

Interestingly, the group who won the court case against the PEC in KZN claims that they have been able to secure at least 157 nominations for Ramaphosa, but that a further 80 appeals have been filed with the NEC for alleged irregularities. Assuming that these branches would have nominated Ramaphosa, that would have amounted to 30% of total branch nominations for him in KZN – close to what is required in that province for an overall Ramaphosa win.

Of course one can be sure that the Zuma camp has done similar calculations. So if these accusations are true, it would suggest that the Zuma side is already trying to disrupt a Ramaphosa win. This does not bode well for the next few weeks.

I have also been told that another reason for the lack of BGMs, particularly in the Free State and North West, relates to the sizes of the branches. It is said that the rapid membership growth in these two provinces resulted in supersized branches – many with over 1 000 members. This would mean that in order to have a quorum for the BGM they would need to have over 500 members present, which is turning out to be a real challenge.

If these branches are not able to hold their BGMs it would pose a serious challenge to the ANC, since it would be difficult to see how the outcome of the conference without the majority of branches from the Free State and North West would be accepted.

That leaves of course the question of Mpumalanga, with the second biggest number of delegates. Reports are suggesting that a majority of branches are now writing "Unity" on their nomination forms instead of a particular candidate’s name. If this is indeed the case, it would pose a further dilemma for Luthuli House, since it is not clear if that can be accepted as a legitimate branch nomination.

For the moment, the wind seems to be blowing slightly more in favour of Ramaphosa as far as nominations go, but it can change direction very quickly. What happens in the premier league provinces in the next week could give us a much clearer indication of how confident the Zuma camp is of a victory at the Electoral Conference – if there is one, of course.

- 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.

Read more on:    anc  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  jacob zuma  |  nkosazana dlamini-zuma  |  anc leadership race  |  politics
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