Germiston - As the ANC fights to cling to power in Ekurhuleni, news of mayor Mzwandile Masina already having an exit strategy is spreading like wildfire.According to ANC and ANC Youth League insiders in Gauteng who spoke to City Press, not only has Masina chosen his successor, but he has ambitiously also set his sights on Premier David Makhura’s job in the near future. His lobbyists have apparently started approaching certain individuals to campaign for him in his bid to become ANC provincial chairperson, a position currently occupied by Paul Mashatile. This has raised many eyebrows in the province because the expectation was that Makhura would be Mashatile’s natural successor when the province goes to its elective conference towards the end of next year. There has been a push since last year to bring the conference forward to this year.Masina has flatly denied the claims that he will not serve his full term or that he intends to hand over the mayoral baton to close ally Lesiba Mpya, the regional chair of the ANC Youth League, whom he appointed as the mayoral committee member for human settlements in his executive council.Masina, who boasted about his popularity in Ekurhuleni, told City Press a few days ago that he was prepared to serve his full term until 2021. But he quickly added that it was not entirely dependent on him.“It’s dependent on the coalition. The only thing that can remove me is if the coalition falls apart; I’m not in control of that,” he said.Official tripDespite Masina pouring cold water over claims of his ambitions, insiders insisted that “Masina wants the province”. “He has indeed chosen Lesiba as a successor because he trusts him,” said an ANC Youth League leader.They said that for Masina to sustain his campaign to be premier, he needs “solid” people behind him as mayors, and that is why he would choose Mpya to succeed him. “The ground is being prepared,” said the youth leader. He added that by choosing Mpya, Masina “has become politically mature because he is someone he can trust compared with the others around him”.He added that Masina was also set to lobby for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s presidential campaign with the hope that his hard work would pay off when the time for the appointment of premiers comes.“Masina hopes all his hard work in that campaign will pay off.”Another ANC insider said Mpya’s rise to power in the region was evidenced by the fact that Masina didn’t think twice about leaving him in charge as acting mayor during his recent official trip to China.Masina added fuel to the fire when he posted on social media that he considered Mpya a rare talent he will leave behind.“As I plan to hand over the baton, I’m happy that, like Nkosindiphindile Xhakaza [sic] and Jongizizwe Dlabathi, I’ll leaving [sic] behind a rare talent that I had the opportunity to develop and saw it grow to a point of being ready to take the region forward ... I have no doubt that the future is bright,” he wrote.Xhakaza and Dlabathi are part of Masina’s team in Ekurhuleni. They, together with Mpya, were instrumental in Masina’s campaign for chairmanship in the region.It's a jungleAnother insider said: “Masina wants the province; he has indeed chosen Mpya as a successor because he trusts him more than the others.”Claims of Mpya waiting in the wings have stirred up a debate about a possible boomerang effect on Masina, as those in his inner circle are politically senior but were sidelined in Mpya’s favour. In addition, some of his close allies are said not to be convinced that Masina could take control of Gauteng.However, even Masina acknowledges that until the branches nominate him, he will stay on as leader of the opposition in Ekurhuleni should the coalition collapse and power be transferred to the opposition.“When the provincial conference comes and I have got sufficient support, I will look at it at that particular point in time. But, in the ANC, you don’t wake up and say you are going to contest the province,” said Masina.“In Ekurhuleni, it’s not like we are homogenous, we have different views – even among ourselves. Even though I am respected as a leader, if you go to the province, it’s a jungle.” The ANC risks losing the only metro it governs in Gauteng if it fails to honour an agreement with its coalition partner, the African Independent Congress, to move Matatiele from the Eastern Cape back into KwaZulu-Natal. Talks with ANC leaders will continue next month. The African Independent Congress’ support saw the ANC take control of Ekurhuleni and Rustenburg after last year’s local government elections.Masina said he needed to prove himself before he could contest the province. He said he was part of the province’s hierarchy, but there were others more qualified than him, including Makhura, Parks Tau, Jacob Khawula and Lebogang Maile.“Where would Makhura go if we contest him?” he asked.Makhura’s name has appeared on Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s slate as one of those who would form part of the top ANC leadership when the party elects new leaders in December. Makhura has distanced himself from this.Insiders said the succession plan in Gauteng was such that Makhura would take over as ANC chairperson for two terms, with Maile by his side if Mashatile gets elected to the top six. The plan would then see Maile assume Makhura’s position.