ANC: The Big 5 and the Return of the Buffalo

2012-12-18 07:27

Mangaung will not only be remembered as a gambit to keep the ANC together but also, as a fierce contest in a political safari.

The electric atmosphere that reverberated through the plenary tent yesterday afternoon made it clear that this is a game – a Game of Thrones, a fellow blogger commented.  The other ‘game’ refers to the probable winners of the Top 6 ANC officials’ nomination yesterday (with exception to Jessie Duarte who has been elected by default).   All five probable winners are men and women who have asserted their dominance.

The Rocket that Failed to Launch

We can (sadly) conclude that Kgalema Motlanthe will not be elected as President of the African National Congress. The feel and atmosphere around this conference has been quite telling. On the first day of the conference delegates from all over the country were already singing and cheering for their preferred Presidential candidates. Interested to hear a different tune, I walked around and it was clear that Jacob Zuma was in everyone’s rhymes and dance moves -quite telling.

More importantly, 3 days into the conference there has been very little lobbying from Kgalema’s camp. There seems to be no strategy at all. It there is any strategy; ‘roll over and die’ best describes it. There are a few reasons why Kgalema Motlanthe will not win. Amongst many is Jacob Zuma’s coordinated crusade to clutch all possible King Makers near him. The foxy Ace Magashule from the Free State is one of Zuma’s King Makers. Early in the game, Ace pulled his card (an ace?) by declaring his allegiance to Zuma in May – a month before the Free State Provincial Conference. Seven months ago Zuma pocketed the Free State; seven months later many more provinces have followed.

Zuma understands this well. His decisive win at this conference will partly be secured because he not only made his intentions clear, but he also has the knack to draw King Makers and key allies. Kgalema on the other hand does not get this. Calls for him to run for President have mainly come from the fringes of the ANC.  No real ANC powerhouse in the form of a league or individual punted him, except the infantile ANC Youth League. Even their punting was seen treated with contempt.

Then of course the various vocal groupings (with little lobbying on the ground) have punted Motlanthe’s name on rooftops. Forces of Change, Friends of the Youth League and the Anybody But Zuma groups have crippled Motlanthe’s campaign in ways more than one. Their inability to lobby actively on the ground for him stands out.

For any rocket to launch it needs a base and Kgalema unfortunately, does not have one.

Making way for the not-so new Game in the Safari

Mangaung will not bring about any drastic leadership changes within the ANC. Three of the six probable winners might be new to the positions, but their place in the Safari has been long secured.

Here’s the Big 5 and the Buffalo:

President: Jacob Zuma

Deputy President: Cyril Ramaphosa

National Chair: Baleka Mbete

Secretary General: Gwede Mantashe

Deputy Secretary General: Jessie Duarte (DSG-elect : stood uncontested and in was elected in accordance with the ANC's constitution)

Treasurer General: Zweli Mkhize

A quick glance at the list will show you that not only are these Zuma pawns in the game against Motlanthe but they’re also accomplished politicians in their own right. Their political will over the next 5 years will be tested from within the ANC. For the ANC to remain a powerhouse it's leadership needs to deal substantively it's key challenges - the rot of corruption, organizational inefficiency and the inability to translate policy into reality. This is unlikely to happen.

The Return of the Buffalo

Far from auction halls near buffalos, Cyril Ramaphosa revived his almost abandoned political career in Mangaung yesterday. With a stoic look fixed on his face, the Buffalo man exuded quiet confidence.

Sunday when Zuma delivered his political report (cum-campaign speech) it was clear that he was also campaigning for Cyril. In his 14-page political report, Zuma made much mention about the National Development Plan. His soon-to-be Deputy President is also the Deputy Commissioner of the Planning Commission. The Plan has been the subject of much discussion within the alliance. Some have supported it and some haven’t. Zuma made it clear yesterday that the ANC should look into throwing their full support to the National Development Plan as anchor for policy formation.

Cyril Ramaphosa will play an integral role in anchoring the ANC’s policy woes. Since it’s rule post-Apartheid, the ANC has straddled from one policy to the next. The cost: confusion over key policy positions (land reform, nationalisation, state owned enterprises etc). The National Development Plan (with all it’s fault) is a rational critique and sketch of what South Africa needs to do to close the jarring socio-economic gap. If Cyril has his way, he could be enforcer-in-chief of the plan as Deputy President of the ANC (and possibly of the country too).

Ramaphosa’s return to the political safari is laden with much controversy. His affiliation to the Lonmin Mine as a Non-Executive Director and his buffalo fetish drew eyes on him this past year. His probable election as the ANC’s Deputy President will assert his dedication to the ANC and grow the support he already has.

As the Mangaung spectacle unfolds, we remain in political wilderness. The political safari is laden with the Big 5; the return of the Buffalo is imminent.

Sibusiso Tshabalala will be blogging live from the ANC National Elective Conference this week. Follow him on Twitter@SbuTshabs  -  for updates on everything that happening in Mangaung.

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