Scandals highlight what’s at stake in ANC race

2017-09-10 06:00
Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane

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In the past few months, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has garnered the support of many by saying President Jacob Zuma must go, only to irritate them by qualifying his statement with an apparent backtrack – saying Zuma’s ousting would only serve to split the ANC.

As a result, Mantashe has confounded his fellow Zuma critics, who have called for the president’s immediate recall.

At two ANC national executive committee meetings, he refused to support a motion of no confidence in the president, saying those who were pushing for it did not have a clear plan to counter the severe repercussions that could ensue from forcing Zuma out.

Mantashe is the engine of the party and knows more about its internal dynamics than other ANC leaders. The grim prospect facing the party is that more divisions will occur. These have come into glaring focus in KwaZulu-Natal in particular. Here, business is booming for hit men, who are bumping off ANC councillors almost every second week, with no consequences.

So, Mantashe may be closer to the truth than he knows. Some of the eight or so contenders for the ANC presidency may be standing on that ticket only for the purpose of negotiating a seat for themselves in the top six – or top eight, as has been proposed. However, for one or two of the candidates, this is an all-or-nothing situation.

Candidates such as the two current frontrunners – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former African Union Commission head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – may have nothing to lose by standing other than thwarted personal ambition. It is their backers who may be too invested in the race.

This pertains to Zuma in particular. He faces a hostile retirement if any candidate other than Dlamini-Zuma becomes the next president. Zuma has so far successfully ducked all legal cases pending against him, but he will be vulnerable once he is out of office.

It is little wonder, then, that media scandals about the candidates are starting to break in their numbers. These can be seen as dirty tricks taking root ahead of the ANC’s December elective conference.


The sex scandal dogging Ramaphosa has been widely regarded as a media ploy to try to discredit him. The point is not whether the story is true, it has to do with the timing.

The reason that scrupulous journalists will treat any scandalous information brought to them with caution rests on the possibility that, for example, someone knew all along that Ramaphosa was allegedly engaged in extramarital affairs, but waited until the first few days of the opening of nominations by branches to try to besmirch him in the eyes of ANC members – and the public.

It is not that the media will not run such stories. The point is, stories like these will be treated within the context in which they are presented.

So, to those who are sitting with information, waiting for a chance to throw dirt on one of the candidates – for their own benefit and to give their favoured candidate the advantage – do not be surprised if your scandal not gain as much traction as you expected. Any sensational or scandal-riddled story that breaks around the presidential candidates will fail to have as much effect as it would have had the incident happened before this month, when nominations opened.

This does not mean the implicated people are exonerated for any wrongdoing. If it is a legal matter, the law must still take its course. If it is embarrassing personal conduct, shame will be visited upon the culprits. My cautionary note is that any such story is unlikely to sway candidates for the ANC conference. As for editors, if they are of an honest disposition, they will treat any such leaks that land in their inboxes with the necessary circumspection.

But any person – from campaign managers and lobbyists to the governing party’s security structures – who is bent on manipulating the choice of candidate and the outcomes is in for a surprise.

This time, the ANC has set up measures to prevent branch members from being forced to align themselves with regional and provincial preferences. This will go some way towards stopping the conference from being disrupted by disgruntled groups.

Mantashe has said he does not see how anyone can force the collapse of the conference. And he has downplayed complaints raised in provinces, saying they do not necessitate its postponement. But the possibility remains that some attendees may try to frustrate proceedings.

And if push comes to shove, the violent scenes we have seen at branch meetings may seem like nothing compared with scenes that could play out on the national stage. This is because there are two types of aspirant ANC leaders: those who want to steer the party and the country out of trouble; and those who have too much to lose if they or their proxies fail to gain a footing. The latter are determined to win, by hook or by crook.


Do you agree that winning at all costs is crucial for those vying for the ANC presidency in December?

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Read more on:    anc  |  gwede mantashe

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