Zizi Kodwa: ANC is my first wife

IT'S NOT ABOUT ME Zizi Kodwa. Picture: Leon Sadiki
IT'S NOT ABOUT ME Zizi Kodwa. Picture: Leon Sadiki

12am, 3am and 5am.

These are the times that utata kaZoe knows he’ll be woken up by high-pitched screams.

Of late, she struggles to fall asleep – until he is home.

“I am used to it now. I change nappies. I wish I could breastfeed because that is the only thing that can make her quiet.”

This Zizi Kodwa is a far cry from the fast-talking, green tea drinker with tailored suits who was party spokesperson. He once told me his wife makes his suits, his second wife, that is.

“To say it crudely, the first family I have is the ANC. Some of us who get married have families and they do appreciate that whether you are a mayor or minister, you become a second wife.

“My wife knows and says often that she knows she is the second wife. The ANC is the first wife,” he states matter-of-factly as he dips a teaspoon into the honey he is having with his green tea.

“In my car, I always have a bag packed with two jeans, shirts and a suit because I expect a call anytime to ‘turn left or turn right’, as a cadre of the ANC.”

During the party’s national elective conference in December, he said: “The worst punishment the ANC can give me now is to say I must be a spokesperson of the ANC again.

“It’s better to leave the stage when everybody says we want more. If you stay too long you may commit serious mistakes.”

But he knows better than anyone that Thuma Mina (Send Me) is not just one of the best songs of all time, but a commitment one makes without question.

“It’s 2014. I’m in the top 20. I can’t remember exactly which number, but I’m number 20 in the national list to go to Cape Town. I get to Cape Town.

"I am sworn in. I sign all those forms. Just as I finish them, I get a call telling me there is a problem and I must come to Luthuli House.

"I was an MP for about two hours before I got redeployed to be spokesperson. I learnt from there that you don’t make your own decisions in the ANC.”

This week, the ANC announced that he will take up a full-time position in the president’s office at Luthuli House.

Word is that he is the “reincarnation” of Thabo Mbeki’s former spokesperson and head of the presidency, Smuts Ngonyama.

“I’m not Smuts and I don’t wish to be him. The responsibility is different,” he tells me.

“My job is to coordinate the programmes and functions of the office of the president.

"At the same time, what Smuts did not have, is that we want to evaluate, through the office of the president, the efficacy of the ANC policies. Do ANC policies, or does the ANC through its policies, spread its influence across all sectors of society?”

He will be tasked with cracking the whip on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“The second part of that includes something called planning, monitoring and evaluation – monitoring and evaluating your deployees.

"From ministers up to the last deployee, whether or not they are doing what is expected of them. I will not just sit in the office.

"I will show up where deployees serve, unannounced. I will show up at the department, at the mayor’s office etc. For example, we have agreed now that we will do a 360 degree evaluation of MPs and MPLs between now and elections.”

Between now and elections is when it will be decided who will make it into Ramaphosa’s first Cabinet next year.

“So this is quite a new and exciting outfit and I think that is what the organisation has been missing all along, because at times not everybody who joins the ANC is inspired by its values.

“People are inspired by other things, so you need to have your eyes and ears on the ground so that the organisation does not react, but can proactively act and avoid anything that may divert the organisation or can damage the image of the organisation.”

To an outsider, the move looks a bit like a palace coup. One can’t be blamed for concluding that Kodwa’s position was strategic and designed to bypass secretary-general Ace Magashule.

“We are not competing with anybody. We are way beyond the conference now. In the ANC we have gone beyond what we stood for and what our preferences are.”

They work as a team and he reports to Magashule, he insists.

“It is not about whether I like him or not. I don’t have options. Five thousand delegates made their preference known, it is not about me. I can’t change that preference. It is a done deal.”

Right now their focus will be on the 2019 elections, he says.

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