Many hurdles face Mabuza’s uncontested top-six idea for the ANC

The call by ANC provincial leaders for the top six leadership positions not to be contested at the party’s national conference is an ac...


The call by ANC provincial leaders for the top six leadership positions not to be contested at the party’s national conference is an acceptance of President Jacob Zuma’s call for a political compromise.

It is also a realisation by both main camps for the need to secure a political future for all sides, a leading political analyst has said.

The analyst, Professor Sipho Seepe, said the initiative by provincial executives to opt for a non-contested top six and party unity was due to a realisation that a winner-takes-all scenario was something that losers would not be prepared to face.

“The resurfacing of this notion, as propounded by the provincial leadership, is in part a recognition that the future remains uncertain.

“In other words, such a proposition is becoming attractive to both sides – for one, it secures the political future for both sides,” Seepe said.

Seepe recalled Jacob Zuma’s plea, at the conclusion of the party’s national policy conference earlier this year, that the loser in the presidential race should be given the deputy position.

He said Zuma was criticised in the media for attempting to secure a position for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

“They chose the proposition as self-serving. What has changed is that there is a recognition that Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign is not guaranteed victory as some had hoped,” Seepe said.

However, the proposal by ANC provincial leaders from Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Free State, North West and KwaZulu-Natal that the top six leadership positions should not be contested could be rejected by the conference and some of the presidential candidates.

The branches could argue that it was imposed from the top. But observers said the new proposition was part of a hidden agenda by some of the provincial leaders to secure vital positions at the top for themselves.

Another political analyst, Ralph Mathekga, said although the initiator of the idea, Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza, had good intentions to broker peace and avoid a divisive contest before the conference, Mabuza himself had a vested interest in the race.

“He stands to personally gain because he would like to be in the top six as a condition,” Mathekga said.

Some of the provincial leaders feature in the top six in both the Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma camps.

Mabuza is gunning for deputy president, for which he was nominated by the ANC Youth League. The provinces agreed during the last weekend’s Mpumalanga provincial general council in Mbombela that the top six positions should not be contested in December.

Mabuza leads the newly reconstituted “new premier league”, to which he has managed to rope in his counterparts from Gauteng, Free State, North West and KwaZulu-Natal.

Unlike its pro-Zuma predecessor, the ‘Premier League’, which comprised of Ace Magashule of the Free State, North West’s Supra Mahumapelo and Mabuza, the new premier league is more inclusive, with Gauteng and KZN recently recruited into it under the “unity” banner.

The grouping, which plans to visit other ANC premiers later to join the initiative, agreed during last weekend’s Mpumalanga provincial general council that the top six positions should not be contested in December. ANCWL deputy president Sisi Ntombela told the gathering the league supported the initiative.

But observers see it as part of a plan for provincial leaders to elevate themselves to Luthuli House come the national conference.

In light of the imminent departures of president Zuma and secretary-general Gwede Mantashe in December, some of the premiers were said to be eyeing the positions of deputy president, national chairperson, secretary-general, deputy secretary-general and treasurer-general.

Mabuza showed interest in the deputy president position, but not under Dlamini-Zuma, as he believed the ANC would lose in 2019 should she be elected to the top spot. Initially he indicated that he sided with Ramaphosa but back-tracked when Ramaphosa offered the position to Lindiwe Sisulu, who has yet to accept it.

A source close to Mabuza said he had positioned himself as a kingmaker for both the Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma camps, but his indecision about which side he chose saw him being dumped by both camps.

“DD (Mabuza) has been playing his cards too close to the chest and that was his undoing, as both camps decided to ditch him. He has himself to blame,” the source said.

The unity initiative was Mabuza’s fightback strategy against Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma for snubbing him. Both leaders are yet to visit Mpumalanga for their campaigns, but the same source said nobody was allowed to visit the province without Mabuza’s approval.

“All the regions eat from Mabuza’s hand. They do what he tells them, otherwise they know he will close the tap to anyone who goes the wrong way,” a journalist in the province said this week.

Following the weekend PGC in Mbombela, the five premiers undertook to lobby other ANC-run provinces and branches directly to accept their position, which would work against the campaigns by all the existing presidential hopefuls, who were unlikely to back off from campaigning.

But Paul Mashatile of Gauteng promised they would convince the current candidates to stop and conform to their unity route.

The premiers’ “no-contest” position could face another hurdle as the proposition may be rejected by conference branch delegates for being undemocratic and an imposition from the top.

– ericn@citizen.co.za

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