South Africa: Nominations show Ramaphosa is set for second term

By Carien du Plessis

Posted on Wednesday, 23 November 2022 18:05
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has received convincing support for a second term, less than a month before the governing African National Congress (ANC) is set to go to its national elective congress, while one of his main detractors, former president Jacob Zuma, appears to have lost all his influence in the party.

Ramaphosa received 2,037 branch nominations out of a total of 3,308, with a convincing lead over his nearest rival – former health minister Zweli Mkhize, who received 916 nominations.

Zuma’s chosen presidential candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (his ex-wife and cooperative government minister), received only 81 nominations.

Barring any surprise charges against Ramaphosa in the next three weeks, detractors allege that he might have violated foreign exchange controls or tax laws. This is in relation to the $580,000 that he held in cash on his Phala Phala game farm before it was stolen in February 2020, They have also questioned his contention that the money was from the proceeds of game sales.

Ramaphosa allies lag

The running mates chosen for Ramaphosa by his campaign caucus have elicited mixed reactions, although most of those with the majority of the nominations are in the president’s camp.

For example, water and sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu, who was to vie as Ramaphosa’s deputy, only received 278 nominations. This is in contrast with party treasurer general Paul Mashatile, who received 1791 nominations.

Mashatile is the most powerful official in the party. He has been acting as party secretary-general after Ace Magashule was suspended early last year and has used this to his advantage. He has been campaigning for the deputy president position, independent of any presidential aspirant.

Justice minister Ronald Lamola, 39, who ran a ‘Generation Next’ campaign that capitalised on his youth, mustered 427 nominations for deputy president, while Eastern Cape premier Oscar Lubabalo Mabuyane received 397 nominations.

Both Lamola and Mabuyane are in Ramaphosa’s camp.

Deputy President David Mabuza, who has been running a low-key campaign but also lost considerable support in his home province of Mpumalanga, received 77 nominations for deputy president and 196 for president. He looks unlikely to return to the party’s top six unless he pulls out a surprise move, as his supporters claim he might.

Mabuza is an enigmatic figure known as a shrewd operator. He wasn’t in the country for the announcement as he had left for Russia two days before, on a personal visit.

Surprise nominations

In the powerful, full-time position of secretary-general, the candidate preferred by Ramaphosa’s lobby group was transport minister Fikile Mbalula who managed 749 nominations. Former KwaZulu-Natal ANC secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli received the most nominations for the position (1225). Ironically, Masualle received more nominations than Ntuli in his home province, but Ntuli had strong support from at least three other large provinces, including the Eastern Cape.

Phumulo Masualle (the deputy minister of public enterprises and former Eastern Cape premier), who is in Mkhize’s camp, received 889 nominations and will likely make it to the ballot paper.

Another surprising nomination has been that of Bejani Chauke – an ally and former campaign manager of Ramaphosa – to the position of treasurer-general.

  • Chauke received most (552) nominations for that position, followed closely by party spokesperson Pule Mabe (428) and former Ekurhuleni mayor and Ramaphosa detractor, Mzwandile Masina, with 348 nominations.

Chauke, who received strong support in his home province of Limpopo, has been a controversial figure of late as he has been accused of smuggling large amounts of dollars into the country on behalf of Ramaphosa. This accusation was made by former spy boss Arthur Fraser, who first revealed details of the Phala Phala theft a few months ago. The revelation came ahead of the release of an official report containing details about Fraser’s own misdemeanours as intelligence agent.

Some of Ramaphosa’s lobbyists have been trying to distance themselves from Chauke in the process.

Long-time ANC official could lose out

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who was preferred by the Ramaphosa caucus for re-election, received significantly fewer nominations (979) than Limpopo premier Stan Mathabatha (1492).

  • Mantashe has been in the party’s top six leadership since 2007 when he was elected secretary general at the same conference where Zuma was elected president.

As mineral resources and energy minister, Mantashe is one of the figures who has been at the centre of the country’s debate about increasingly regular electricity outages. However, it is unclear whether it is his role as minister or negative reputation in the party that has been costing him support. Mantashe received the most support in his home province of the Eastern Cape.

Mathabatha comes from what is considered to be Ramaphosa’s home province, and is perceived to be in the Ramaphosa camp. Despite this, he received strong support in the anti-Ramaphosa KwaZulu-Natal province, which suggests that he could have teamed up with a player like Mashatile to lobby for support there.

Deputy finance minister David Masondo, 48, one of the younger contenders, managed 501 nominations for the position, which means he’s also likely to be on the ballot.

Only two female candidates

Only two women have managed enough nominations to be amongst the 16 candidates for the top six positions, which were announced by the party elections manager, former president Kgalema Motlanthe, on Monday.

This is despite the party’s strong commitment to have women in leadership positions, and South Africa being among the top countries in the world for female representation in government.

Nomvula Mokonyane, the former Gauteng premier and member of the cabinet, managed 1779 nominations for deputy secretary general while ANC general manager Febe Potgieter Gqubule got 905 branch nominations.

Mokonyane, who was dropped from the cabinet by Ramaphosa in 2019, is considered to be in the anti-Ramaphosa camp and was once such a staunch Zuma supporter that she said she would defend him “with her buttocks”.

Mokonyane appears to have used her time outside the government and as an ANC organiser to rally for support.

All is not lost

Mkhize’s supporters have indicated that, despite the fact that he received significantly fewer branch nominations than Ramaphosa, they will continue campaigning for him up to the party’s conference. The event is to take place from 16 to 20 December in the Nasrec Exhibition Centre in Johannesburg.

It is likely that the lobby groups will use these nominations as a basis for horse-trading and to ensure that provinces have fair representation amongst the top six leaders.

Motlanthe said for the top six officials to appear on the ballot paper, they have to get the most nominations in at least one province and be among the top three nominees to appear on the ballot paper. In some cases, only two candidates received majority support in at least one province, which means there will only be two contenders.

After nominations at [the] conference are read, 25% of voting delegates could support the addition of a nominee to the ballot paper.

Further nominations could be made from the conference floor as well. “After nominations at [the] conference are read, 25% of voting delegates could support the addition of a nominee to the ballot paper,” Motlanthe said.

A source close to Ramaphosa’s caucus group says the running mates they chose for him performed poorly because they announced them fairly late in the campaign. However, some Ramaphosa supporters accused the group, headed by three ministers, of trying to impose their decisions on them.

The composition of the 80-member national executive committee could be crucial in determining whether Ramaphosa could have real power during his second term. This is despite the strong desire by the Ramaphosa lobby to have majority sympathisers rather than detractors in the top six committee.

Nominations are however yet to be announced.

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