Potholes to Mangaung

President Jacob Zuma would get his second term if the ANC held its national conference tomorrow, but it would have been a fraught and tensely fought return to the party’s highest office.

However, a week – in this case eight months – is a long time in politics.

(File photo) President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. Photo: Leon Nicholas. Credit: INLSA

Political allegiance and friendship can change dramatically.

Officially, there is no succession battle, nor are there any discussions on, nor lobbying for, candidates until October when nominations open – there is only “leadership evaluation”.

However, the ANC’s rose-coloured rhetoric belies what is taking place in its regions across the country.

From Capricorn to Lejweleputswa, Bophirima to the West Coast, a complex contest is unfolding. It is drawing on local power and influence, including a potentially explosive mix of political office, or grievances over having lost council or provincial government positions, to offers of financial gain and, in some cases, violence.

Thus it is too simplistic to say that provincial membership strengths translate into delegates’ votes at the Mangaung national conference. Similarly, it is too simplistic to say that depending on the persuasion of an ANC chairman, the province’s delegates would fall in line.

The picture at grassroots is more nuanced and, at previous conferences, delegates representing branches within regions have shown their independent mindedness in the secret ballot.

While KwaZulu-Natal has worked hard to successfully sideline anti-Zuma voices in its ranks, it does not mean support in the largest ANC province, or about 24 percent of delegates, will bring victory at Mangaung.

The fight is region by region, but it’s an underground battle, with all the related dirty tricks and smear campaigns.

There was a clearly defined Zuma versus Thabo Mbeki battle in the run-up to the 2007 Polokwane national conference, with Cosatu, the South African Communist Party and the ANC Youth League throwing their support behind Zuma.

Today there is no face for the anti-Zuma campaign – certainly not after the expulsion of Julius Malema, the youth league leader who publicly called for leadership change at Mangaung. Much touted as a contender, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has publicly neither denied nor confirmed a possible run.

Saddam Masupha, from Gwa-Masenga branch in Vhembe, Limpopo, said while he would take a mandate from his branch, he would vote for Zuma in Mangaung if things were to go his way.

“Kgalema is not clear whether he is standing or not. He is not telling us whether he is available or not, and that is the problem. I do not even know who or which branches support him. I have seen Zuma’s line-up and it is powerful,” said the unemployed 35-year-old.

While liking Zuma because he was accessible and made it possible for him to report corruption on the Presidential Anti-Corruption Hotline, Masupha said, he knew very little about Motlanthe’s campaign.

Without a face, the anti-Zuma campaign is condemned to backrooms, with only occasional public displays of sentiment – the raising of a hand over one’s head with fingers pointing downwards to symbolise a showerhead, the gesture disparaging of Zuma as the man who gives trouble.

A factor that will evolve over time is that of the “Friends of Julius Malema”, established to provide him with a public platform outside the ANC in a replay of the support garnered around Zuma and his court battles in the two years ahead of the Polokwane conference.

But anything not in the open holds the potential for manipulation.

The ANC is aware of this: it has admitted, and condemned, vote-buying and lobbying for candidates as “un-ANC”. More recently, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe insisted branches must be allowed to think “and not be given a list of slates developed by a narrow, well-resourced circle in the ANC” and the frequent admission, and condemnation, of money for votes and un-ANC-like lobbying for support, dating back to the party’s national general council in September 2010.

While its organisational renewal proposals on banning the financial backing of candidates, even funding T-shirts, and the vetting of candidates by the integrity commission could be adopted at Mangaung, they would only govern future behaviour.

Meanwhile, it remains the task of senior leaders to speak out. As did Motlanthe at the December ANC Limpopo conference, where he condemned slates, or candidate lists, as the “worst form of corruption of the spirit, character and vision”.

“Stealing away the voice of members through slates, buying of votes and treating the ordinary membership as voting fodder therefore serves no other purpose than to corrupt the organisation,” he said, warning against purging those from the losing slate regardless of whether they have skills and capacity to contribute to work or the party.

However, soon afterwards Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale, at the start of his second term as ANC chairman, reshuffled his cabinet and excluded three people perceived to have been on the other side, and demoted a fourth.

Word is that Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza, the pro-Zuma politician also recently re-elected for a second term, will do the same to shore up his support. The far-reaching manipulation of who’s in and out crosses the lines of state and party: Gert Sibande mayor Khotso Motloung, a Mpumalanga youth league leader and vocal in the call for leadership change, was given his marching orders.

The signals from those in party and state power are clear to those in branches, whom the ANC calls its backbone.

And why should what worked in the run-up to Polokwane – swelling the ranks of ANC branches to ensure Zuma was nominated, the involvement of state structures and political plots and ploys – work now?

The intelligence services are again accused of becoming politically involved amid claims they are being asked to watch politicians. What is playing out around intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, the drafter of the KwaZulu-Natal ground zero plot against Zuma who remains accused of abusing the police’s slush funds, is unsettling.

And sometimes political tensions lead to blows – or worse.

Luthuli House has dispatched a task team to manage tensions in the Free State where pressure is mounting on Zuma ally Ace Magashule, who maintains tight control of Motheo.

Centred on the provincial capital Bloemfontein, it brings numbers and influence together and Magashule supporters hold all top five positions with four incumbents also in government jobs.

Some ANC regional leaders in the Free State, as in other provinces, have linked their political survival to that of Zuma’s, transcending provincial dynamics. Polediso Motsoeneng, secretary of the disbanded Thabo Mofutsanyana region and a known Magashule enemy, said he would support Zuma anyway.

“We support Zuma, we have a problem with Ace (Magashule). He is doing things in the name of the president, and he will never succeed,” he said.

In the Eastern Cape the political weathervane swings from region to region. And Zuma has visited often in the past six months, so much so that there are now claims that his education foundation is being deployed. Opposition is split between those in favour of Motlanthe and the third way, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale.

The regional conferences, such as OR Tambo around Mthatha, not only hold numbers but influence, despite divisions, and have previously backed Zuma.

Gauteng is known to play its cards close to its chest and to bring its divisions to national conferences. In the run-up to the 2007 Polokwane conference, the province indicated support for a third way but the branch delegates overwhelmingly voted for Zuma.

Much sympathy remains for provincial ANC chairman Paul Mashatile, who despite being linked to the anti-Zuma camp, has trod a diplomatic and politically sussed line.

What is clear is that ANC regions, not necessarily provinces, are setting the road map for Mangaung. And as of today, Zuma has enough support in enough regions to make it back into office.

However, there are still seven months to go on the road to Mangaung – and a verification of branches by Luthuli House – and the journey remains open to manipulation.


ANC provincial chairman Paul Mashatile, the arts and culture minister, wields considerable power in the province and was bruised when Zuma did not appoint him Gauteng premier in 2009.

This sore point lingers among rank and file supporters.

Mashatile’s supporters, largely associated with a call for change, but quietly and diplomatically, are in charge of three of Gauteng’s five regions – Johannesburg, the most influential, Tshwane, the biggest, and Ekurhuleni.

“My suspicion is that we might keep them both – the president and his deputy – and change the rest.

“We might lock those two in those positions in the interest of the party and be open-minded about the other positions,” a provincial executive committee member said. “We are trying to go to conference united.”

A government official who is close to Mashatile said: “Gauteng has never been to a conference as a united force. Gauteng has never really voted as a block.”

At the 2007 Polokwane national conference, branches voted overwhelmingly for Zuma despite different notions among the provincial leadership.

The divisions in the regions are to a large extent over local politics. In 2010, factionalism and infighting was so rife, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni were disbanded. In Tshwane, two conferences took place last year: the parallel conference of those opposed to the election of mayor Sputla Ramokgopa as regional chairman led to subsequent disciplinary actions.

In the West Rand, the region which Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane hails from, Humphrey Mmemezi, the deputy provincial secretary, swayed the vote in favour of Mashatile.

Mmemezi was then appointed an MEC in Mokonyane’s executive in a reshuffle that was forced on her.

In Sedibeng, there could be a serious contest for the position of chairman. Simon Mofokeng, the current regional chairman and mayor of the district municipality, will face opposition at the upcoming regional conference this month from Mosotho Petlane, the regional secretary. – Moffet Mofokeng

Western Cape

In the only province where the ANC is the opposition, the focus often falls on its role in local government – positions there and fighting the ruling DA – rather than party matters. And this muddies the picture, with observers saying it was a challenge to negotiate intra-ANC battles playing out in the council, province and society.

In the largest and most influential region, Dullah Omar, Cape Town, around a third of the 105 branches are not in good standing, according to insiders from the region.While much is linked to dysfunctional membership renewal – there is a push for members to take out five-year membership – personalities also play a role.

The ANC lost its Nyanga council seat in a recent by-election after the two unsuccessful candidates reportedly turned against the candidate selected through branch meetings.

In the Overberg, the problem with branches is centred around Swellendam, where the ANC and DA are neck-and-neck, and the ACDP now a free agent.

Work was under way to rehabilitate branches, according to the local ANC, but it was difficult as the tensions at council level, and personalities, play themselves out among members.

The West Coast regional structure was disbanded in March amid claims of factional fighting, officially denied, and too many branches not in good standing.

However, branches are being re-established ahead of regional elections later this month, according to the regional convener, despite the dominance of personalities which stalled effective ANC work and liaison with councils.

The exception is Central Karoo, around Beaufort West, where 14 of its 15 branches are up and running following the recently completed realignment with new municipal boundaries, according to the regional secretary.

While the ANC Western Cape elected new leaders in 2011, the historic factional fights remain those backing former provincial secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha and those rallying behind former rival, now chairman, Marius Fransman, the deputy international relations minister.

Insiders say if regions like West Coast, Boland and Dullah Omar, linked to the so-called Skwatsha group, hold sway, the province swings in favour of President Jacob Zuma, in a replay of the run-up to the 2007 Polokwane conference. However, Deputy President Kalema Motlanthe is popular across regions.

The current provincial secretary, former youth leaguer Songezo Mjongile, is accused of pushing for leadership change.

Mjongile has dismissed such claims, saying all ANC leaders from Zuma and Motlanthe to Gwede Mantashe have been invited to the province.

“The only aim was to renew ANC structures and to win the province in 2014, he said: “We discuss politics – that’s the culture I’m bringing back”.

With 43 000 members, it’s doubtful the province will make an impact. – Marianne Merten


With 43 000 members, it’s doubtful the province will make an impact. – Marianne Merten


The ANC Youth League in KwaZulu-Natal has remained a vocal proponent of President Jacob Zuma’s second-term ambitions.

“KZN is unashamedly and conspicuously supporting Zuma for a second term,” said a prominent youth leader.

ANC insiders aligned to the youth league said they had to lobby and make compromises with the party and the Left to ensure the province presented a united front ahead of Mangaung.

Jointly, they have dealt decisively and diplomatically with dissenting voices, which arose particularly in Harry Gwala region – home turf of ANCYL secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, now suspended.

As part and parcel of the political deal-making, those who want to see incumbent chairman and premier Zweli Mkhize go at next week’s elective conference have been alienated at branch level within the province’s 11 regions, paving the way for an overwhelming, if not a guaranteed total, pro-Zuma approach.

While those who are against Mkhize retaining the chairmanship were alienated within the regions at branch level, the disbanded pro-Zuma youth leaguers have pushed for its people in key positions and more than a dozen of them are either chairmen, secretaries or treasurers in 11 regions.

Former chairman of the disbanded youth league and MPL Mthandeni Dlungwane is now deputy chairman in Pietermaritzburg Moses Mabhida region.

Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo’s election as chairman of eThekwini, the largest region with more than 90 000 of KZN’s 244 000 members, is a boost for Mkhize – and thus Zuma, as the two have made up after last year’s fall-out.

Provincial ANC secretary Sihle Zikalala has been quick to point out that KwaZulu-Natal will not go to Bloemfontein to dictate the agenda “just because we happen to be the biggest province and will have the biggest number of voting delegates”.

However, the ground work has been done to guarantee a swell of support for Zuma in the ANC’s biggest province. – Nathi Olifant

Eastern Cape

Three of the ANC regions in the Eastern Cape have shown their pro-change inclinations, electing anti-Zuma regional leaders. Later this month OR Tambo region will see a vote off for chairman between the Zuma backer mayoral committee member William Ngozi and Mhlontlo mayor Thandekile Sabisa, who is seeking a second term on the ticket of leadership change, with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe heading the opposition slate as president. The region, around Mthatha, is key: despite its divisions, it has a history of independent mindedness.

In Amathole, a tricky region around Butterworth, which was disbanded in 2008 after Mluleki George joined Cope, the push for leadership change in favour of Motlanthe is under way. The main battle is between Young Communist League provincial chairman Sithembele Zuka and ANC youth league member Thembalethu Ntuthu for the position of regional secretary. It highlights the complex mix in this province where the South African Communist Party (SACP), Cosatu and the ANC leagues have brought their influence to bear.

Last month the Nelson Mandela Bay region re-elected former mayor Nceba Faku, who has pushed for a third way in favour of Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale and has enjoyed the active support of the provincial youth league and uMkhonto we Sizwe Veterans League.

Faku won even after representatives of 40 of the 185 branches pulled out of the regional conference, claiming other branches supporting Cosatu-backed Zanoxolo Wayile were unjustly disqualified ahead of conference.

Earlier this year, Alfred Nzo region, a largely rural area around Mount Ayliff, voted in Sandile Sello, the Matatiele municipality finance committee head, over the pro-Zuma SACP candidate. In the newly established Buffalo City (East London) region the vote went in favour of Zukiswa Faku, the former mayor, as chairwoman in a show of anti-Zuma sentiments.

Bucking the trend was Chris Hani region, with its pro-Zuma regional executive under Chris Hani District Municipality executive mayor Mxolisi Koyo.

With 225 000 members, the province is the second-largest, but its membership clearly is divided, even in opposition to Zuma, leaving fertile ground for the incumbent to make gains. – Gcina Ntsaluba

Free State

For the first time, Ace Magashule – the longest-serving ANC provincial chairman – is facing what seems to be a fierce challenge to his hold on power. Magashule and his allies have captured the biggest region in the province and skilfully linked his survival to that of President Jacob Zuma, arguing both had to be given a second chance.

But the flames of discontent have been billowing from the province, where violent incidents flared up during the branch nomination processes in the run-up to the provincial conference, to be held in June. He is facing a strong challenge from his former allies – Sibongile Besani, the party’s provincial secretary, and Mxolisi Dukwana, the provincial treasurer. The duo represents a campaign bluntly named “Regime Change”. Their support bases are in Thabo Mofutsanyana – the second-biggest region – and Lejweleputswa. Opposition against Magashule in these two regions is relatively palpable. Interestingly, Magashule disbanded both regions last year in what was widely seen as a purge.

But Magashule has a tight grip on Motheo, the biggest region, which includes the capital Bloemfontein and home of the Mangaung municipality. Motheo mayor Thabo Manyoni, who is also the ANC regional chairman, said attempts to unseat Magashule would not succeed. Manyoni, who is also the ANC’s provincial deputy chairman, said Magashule deserved another term as party leader and premier.

“It is going to be smooth sailing for those supporting the Magashule campaign. Let him return his chairmanship so that he can finish his term as premier,” he said. But Magashule’s rivals have captured the province’s second-biggest region, Thabo Mofutsanyana, which is controlled by Polediso “Dihelele” Motsoeneng, a known Magashule enemy. Motsoeneng said his camp wanted Magashule removed, but supported Zuma.

“We support Zuma, we have a problem with Ace. He is doing things in the name of the president, and he will never succeed,” he said. But Magashule also has tight control of Xhariep, the smallest region. Magashule is hoping that support from Motheo, Xhariep and some parts of Thabo Mofutsanyana, Lejweleputswa and Fezile Dabi will help him win the conference. He appears to have the upper hand, albeit not as strong as in the past, over his enemies. – George Matlala


If Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe were to contest Limpopo province tomorrow, he would definitely win three of the five regions. This is if the so-called anti-Zuma camp that re-elected premier Cassel Mathale automatically supports Motlanthe.

Their regional allies are in firm control of Sekhukhune and Mopani – the two biggest and most influential ANC regions in the province – and won Capricorn three years ago with a small margin.

A sizeable number of branches in Capricorn did not support Mathale during branch nominations. With 131 branches and 38 000 members, Sekhukhune is the province’s traditional kingmaker, due to its sheer size.

Two regional executives – from Sekhukhune and Capricorn – said Motlanthe had made inroads in their areas. However, they admitted that Zuma’s presence was also felt. Zuma’s supporters are in charge of Vhembe and Waterberg – the third and fifth biggest regions respectively.

Most branches in Vhembe and Waterberg nominated Zuma’s ally and Deputy Arts and Culture Minister Joe Phaahla’s failed bid to unseat Mathale.

Saddam Masupha, a member of the ANC’s Gwa-Masenga branch in Vhembe, said he would vote for Zuma if elections were to be held soon. The 35-year-old unemployed man said apart from liking Zuma because he was accessible, he knew very little about Motlanthe’s campaign.

Capricorn, Limpopo’s financial powerhouse, is influential because it is home to most businessmen (or tenderpreneurs), politicians and civil servants. Some of the rich in this region are accused of financing and buying support in other regions to support their preferred provincial leader. Mopani, Vhembe and Capricorn hold their regional conferences in the next three weeks, and Zuma’s support base will be tested A regional leader from Capricorn added that “What I can say is that Zuma might be having few people. But the outcome of the two conferences (Capricorn and Mopani) will determine ahead of Mangaung”. Julius Malema’s allies, Joshua Matlou and Lawrence Mapoulo, are in charge of Mopani and Capricorn while Philemon Mdaka, who is not in the Mathale circle, controls Vhembe. However, Malema’s dismissal from the party and his and the province’s cash-flow crisis could also hurt the Mathale camp, and by extension – based on our theory – Motlanthe’s chances. – Piet Rampedi

North West

ANC chairman Supra Mahumapelo, a known Zuma supporter, is embroiled in a bitter fight with provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge over control of the party.

In this long-divided province, Mahumapelo and his faction are disbanding regions that, according to his critics, are not supporting him. The group is also at war with premier Thandi Modise, the ANC’s deputy general secretary, over the control of the provincial government. Modise is associated with supporting Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, who compiled a report that saw Mahumapelo’s executive |disbanded in 2008. Kabelo Mataboge supports Mbalula.

However, it’s a complex division: during last year’s provincial conference, Mahumapelo’s group had to broker a deal with Mataboge to help him become the provincial chairman.

The fight now is for the control of the province’s biggest region, Bojanala, Mataboge’s home region. The region’s chairman, Louis Diremelo, is seen as a supporter of Motlanthe because of his closeness to Mataboge, while the region’s secretary, Tokyo Mataboge, backs Mahumapelo, making him a Zuma-backer.

Diremelo said those who associated him with Motlanthe were malicious.

Mahumapelo disbanded Ngaka Modiri Molema and is set to dissolve Kenneth Kaunda – the two regions that are not supporting him. His faction wanted to install interim acting leaders who will toe their line.

A regional leader in the Ngaka Modiri Molema region said they supported Kabelo Mataboge – and thus Motlanthe. “People are failing to differentiate Kabelo from Malema,” the leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But a member of the ANC’s provincial executive committee (PEC) close to both Kabelo Mataboge and Diremelo, said the two preferred Motlanthe over Zuma.

“Kgalema has always been calm and doesn’t have personal interests. We need his leadership to take the ANC forward,” the leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

However, Mahumapelo has the upper hand in the party’s PEC, which gives him ammunition to dissolve the regions that oppose him. Mahumapelo’s domination of the PEC, support in Bojanala, and his efforts to install his preferred leaders in Ngaka Modiri Molema and Kenneth Kaunda regions, could give him and Zuma the upper hand in the North West.

ANC provincial spokesman Kenny Morolong said those who suggested regions were being disbanded as part of the ANC succession battle were mischievous.

“We cannot allow mischievous elements who want to open a discussion on ANC leadership to drag us into that debate. (The dissolution of) Ngaka Modiri Molema was resolved by the PEC, not Supra,” he said. – George Matlala

Northern Cape

Godfrey Oliphant, the deputy mineral resources minister, has agreed to stand against the incumbent ANC chairman John Block, who is also facing a challenge from Thapelo “Prof” Sekhonyane, a former uMkhonto we Sizwe member and Robben Islander.

This means Block, who is supported by the vocal provincial youth league and has taken up its call for leadership change, faces an unprecedented challenge – and one which is splitting three key regions.

While Block holds significant support in the provincial capital, Kimberley, some claim through use of his government contacts there, the entry of Oliphant, a former ANC deputy provincial chairman, into the contest has galvanised branches outside the city, including Warrenton, Hartwater and Jan Kempdorp and Barkley West, in favour of Oliphant.

The Francis Baard region is the largest and most influential, but Oliphant is supported by the second-largest region, John Taole Gaetsewe, formerly known as Kuruman, which includes various mining towns.

Oliphant is a former National Union of Mineworkers’ leader standing on a ticket of clean governance. And this is a first sign that sympathy for Block, triggered after he was charged with fraud, may be on the wane.

Insiders say the fraud charges against Block have always been a driving factor, even among his supporters, including the provincial SACP.

“In 2013 we will start preparing for the 2014 national elections.

“ We are concerned that the present leadership will next year be undertaking their “Hands off Block” campaign instead of concentrating on the 2014 national elections,” said Oliphant lobby group spokesman Donovan “Mabalane” Brown.

The Oliphant lobby group has also made inroads in Siyanda region around Upington, Block’s stronghold and venue of the provincial conference early next month, particularly in the Tsantsabane sub region, which includes the towns of Danielskuil and Postmasburg, as well as Keimoes and Kakamas.

However, Block’s home town of Upington is squarely behind him, again splitting yet another region.

The group backing Block has access to resources necessary to criss-cross the vast Northern Cape, and thus its influence has been strong in regional elections in areas like Namakwa (Springbok) and Pixley ka Seme (De Aar).

However, the question also remains whether opposing Block would lead to the backing of Zuma. The opposition to Block is divided between those in favour of Zuma and those wanting Motlanthe as president. – Baldwin Ndaba