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People of influence from left and right

By Sello Mabotja in Johannesburg
Posted on Monday, 21 September 2009 00:00

With no external threats to the ANC’s dominance of politics, the coming months seem likely to see a clarification of the policy trends around leading figures of the left and centre. Three leftists whose stars have been rekindled are higher education minister Blade Nzimande, trade and industry minister Rob Davies and economic development minister Ebrahim Patel. All seem likely to grow effortlessly into pillars of the new order under President Jacob Zuma.

Less prominent but influential is Jeremy Cronin, deputy general secretary of SACP since 1995, who is no doubt content to stay out of the limelight as deputy minister of transport. Cronin once warned of what he called the ‘Zanufication’ of the ANC (in a reference to the slide towards the violent absolutism of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe) but equally he is opposed to a South Africa that protects capitalist interests above all.

Also key are those one might call broad nationalists, men like Collins Chabane, one of the longest-serving members of the ANC’s highest decision-making body, the National Executive Committee. He has known Zuma for more than three decades – and is a musician and band leader of a group known as Movement, which has recorded some traditional Tsonga songs.

Another party loyalist is former caretaker president Kgalema Motlanthe. Affectionately called Mkuluwa, Motlanthe enjoys respect among the rank and file party membership. When pandemonium broke out at the historic Polokwane conference, it was he who restored calm. The centrist ANC strand includes Paul Mashatile, deputy minister of arts and culture, David Makhura, who is campaigning against corruption and is widely respected for being above factions, and Cassel Mathale, who waited patiently for 15 years for eventual deployment as premier of Limpopo Province.