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Ramaphosa supporters concede to likely defeat

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So far only the Northern Cape, the smallest ANC province, is “solidly” behind him. The rest are either divided or are firmly opposed to his second term ambitions.

ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa, centre, with the party’s new Mpumalanga provincial leadership elected last Saturday. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/ African News Agency (ANA)

THE CLEAN sweep in most ANC regional conferences by candidates aligned to the radical economic transformation (RET) group has sent shockwaves in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR22 camp, with some lobbyists conceding that it dashed all hopes for his re-election bid at the December national conference.

According to Ramaphosa lobbyists who spoke to Pretoria News on condition of anonymity, following the re-election of former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede as regional ANC chairperson at a hotly contested conference over the weekend, the president’s bid for a second term had suffered a huge blow in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

This made Ramaphosa’s bid for re-election as ANC president difficult because so far only the Northern Cape, the smallest ANC province, is “solidly” behind him. The rest are either divided or are firmly opposed to his second term ambitions.

This came as RET campaign co-ordinators claimed to have won nine of the 11 KwaZulu-Natal regional conferences ahead of the provincial conference, where they are expected to topple premier Sihle Zikalala, who is seen as a Ramaphosa ally.

Speaking after Gumede defeated eThekwini speaker Thabani Nyawose by 210 votes to 181 on Sunday, a key member of the CR22 camp said her election was a reflection of Ramaphosa’s faltering and disorganised campaign compared to the CR17 one ahead of Nasrec.

They maintained that their campaign was marred by infighting, tactical blunders and no clear faces compared to the RET faction whose campaign was led by the likes of suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, former health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, among others.

The sources accused Ramaphosa of having lost the Mpumalanga recent ANC conference by focusing on alienating Deputy President David “DD” Mabuza instead of building a solid support base behind himself. The strategy, they added, resulted in the election of a provincial leadership, led by new chairperson Mandla Ndlovu, which was more anti-Mabuza than pro-Ramaphosa.

“The CR22 campaign is not there yet. Many people who supported Ramaphosa in CR17 are disappointed with him because he has not fulfilled his promises like clamping down on corruption and economic emancipation. The only thing that will save him is if the other faction does not have a better alternative. If they would have a better alternative then Cyril would be in a much worse situation,” said a Ramaphosa lobbyist, adding it was clear where the political wind was blowing.

In Limpopo, the ANC leadership that united behind him at the 2017 Nasrec conference was now fighting among themselves for provincial leadership positions, they said.

ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) member and education MEC Dickson Masemola was challenging Stan Mathabatha for the position of provincial chairperson ahead of the June conference. “The RET forces are more organised for 2022 and it would be a fallacy to say there is a strong campaign on the CR22 side,” said a CR22 senior member on condition he was not named.

The source said KZN is “almost impossible for CR22 to win because he has not even started campaigning at all”.

“CR22 does not have KZN at all. Senzo (Mchunu) has not been doing anything in KZN at all and with Sihle, you don’t know whether he supports CR or not. He came out strongly attacking RET, but is that support for CR or is it saying that he prefers CR22. You can’t bank on him with anything. In the North West Supra (Mahumapelo) will emerge without competition. The only province where CR22 is solid is the Northern Cape. but we all know he can’t win a conference based on the Northern Cape,” the source added.

The election of Ndlovu and Lindiwe Ntshalintshali as Mpumalanga ANC chairperson and deputy secretary, respectively, was a sign that Zuma’s supporters were in charge, they maintained.

“He came back with Mandla Ndlovu who is close to Zuma and Ace. Ndlovu was in Nkandla at some point supporting Zuma while Ntshalintshali was attending Ace’s court cases. The fact that Ndlovu and Ntshalintshali came in as the convernor and Lindiwe as the co-ordinator says a lot because there are no Cyril people who would support Ace or visit Zuma at Nkandla.”

Not every Ramaphosa supporter is throwing in the towel though. Abner Mosaase, one of the key CR17 campaigners, admitted that the CR22 campaign had not yet taken off the ground but said it was because Ramaphosa did not want to win a second term on the basis of slates. He said it was people around Ramaphosa, not the president, who let South Africans down.

“I have not seen the establishment of a campaign and that’s largely because this time we don’t want the president to get the second term on a factional ticket. Yes, Ramaphosa must get a second term for continuity within the ANC and there has not been any alternative anyway. The only person is him because he has not done anything to disappoint us. It was only people surrounding him that disappointed us,” Mosaase said.

“Also the Covid 19 pandemic did not do him justice because we were not able to see most of his capabilities. So we can’t judge him. If I had to get a call to run his campaign I would do it in a heartbeat because it’s in the interest of the public to see Ramaphosa serving a second term.” Bejani Chauke, Ramaphosa’s right-hand man and campaign manager, declined to comment.

A key RET lobbyist said on Monday: “Out of the 11 Regions in KZN, the progressive RET forces have the majority in the nine regions where conferences have been held. The region where we until now seem to have come out the weakest (but still hold the majority) is Moses Mabhida. The strongest performance now was over the past weekend in the eThekwini Region.

“We are expecting to have an almost clean sweep of the additional members for the eThekwini REC too.”

Political analyst Dr Metji Makgoba said the election of Gumede exposed the weakness of the step aside-rule within the ANC. .

“The candidates of the eThekwini region were basically saying that Gumede was a member in good standing and fit to hold office of the ANC. This shows that Ramaphosa did not think the step-aside rule through because there is no institutional configuration with the rule. They are basically saying that you can commit corruption and then you would only have to step aside. There have not been any attempts to make the rule an institutional policy of the party. It does not respond to problems of the ANC,” Makgoba said.

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