Johannesburg - Cyril Ramaphosa’s return to the top of South African politics is gathering momentum.
On Tuesday, the ANC Women’s League nominated President Jacob Zuma to retain his position as ANC leader at the party’s national conference in Mangaung, and chose Ramaphosa to take over from Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
This follows the decision on Sunday by the KwaZulu-Natal ANC to choose the businessman as its candidate for deputy president to Zuma.
Other regions that have indicated they will back Ramaphosa as deputy are Mpumalanga and North West.
The Eastern Cape, another strong ANC region, and the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association are expected to back Ramaphosa if Motlanthe challenges Zuma.
Ramaphosa’s emergence on the pro-Zuma slate could indicate that the president’s backers are aware Motlanthe is not prepared to stand for another term as his deputy, but could also be sending a message that backing on to the slate won’t be a possibility for him should he change his mind.
Last week, The Star newspaper reported that President Zuma’s lobbyists had endorsed Ramaphosa as the ANC leader’s deputy in Mangaung.
ANC sources said the decision had been taken at a meeting convened by KwaZulu-Natal ANC secretary Sihle Zikalala last Tuesday night.
Zuma supporters who had attended the meeting said Motlanthe was dropped because he “refused our offer to remain deputy president”.
With the nominations process set to have run its course by the weekend (November 30 is the cut-off date), Motlanthe’s backers will be carefully gauging his support. If Motlanthe fails to register sufficient support by way of nominations, the question will be whether he can get back on Zuma’s slate or if Ramaphosa will remain first choice for deputy president.
Motlanthe has been backed by the ANC Youth League and Gauteng and his backers are hoping support will also come from Limpopo and the Western Cape, which is divided.
The Northern Cape and Free State regions are expected to back Zuma, but there has been no clear indication of who they will support for deputy.
Political analyst Protas Madlala said on Monday that Ramaphosa’s nomination was his reward for “politically killing” expelled youth league leader Julius Malema.
Earlier this year, Ramaphosa rejected the young firebrand politician’s appeal against the charge of bringing the ANC into disrepute.