Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma’s lobbyists have officially endorsed businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as the ANC leader’s deputy in Mangaung.
ANC sources said the decision was taken at their latest caucus meeting, convened by KwaZulu-Natal ANC secretary Sihle Zikalala, on Tuesday night.
In what could be seen as a strong indication that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe would challenge Zuma for the ANC presidency, Zuma supporters who are privy to the caucus’ deliberations said Motlanthe was dropped because he “refused our offer to remain deputy president”.
However, the caucus decided to accommodate Motlanthe and some of his prominent supporters in the ANC national executive committee (NEC) if Zuma is re-elected at the elective national conference next month.
This included Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and ANC deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise, who are close to former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.
According to a source, Zuma’s supporters wanted Motlanthe’s backers in the NEC - the party’s highest decision-making structure between conferences - for unity, diversity and because it was “dangerous to have an NEC that always agrees with the president”.
Motlanthe’s lobbyists said the inclusion in the NEC of the top six leaders from the losing side was part of ANC tradition.
A Limpopo regional executive, who is one of Motlanthe’s top lobbyists, said their list of NEC members included “hard-core Zuma lobbyists” such as Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
“Immediately when you qualify to contest for top five and you lose, your name automatically gets into the list of additional members (NEC). It is the principle of the movement. It is not like somebody does you a favour. It is not their invention,” said the Motlanthe lobbyist.
According to an 80-member NEC list compiled by the Tuesday caucus, which The Star has seen, most of Motlanthe’s prominent backers would be accommodated, except ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa.
They included fired national police commissioner Bheki Cele, ANCYL senior members and Limpopo ANC deputy chairman Dickson Masemola.
Apart from Zuma and Ramaphosa, the list has Baleka Mbete as the national chairwoman, KwaZulu-Natal premier Zweli Mkhize as treasurer, Gwede Mantashe as secretary-general and Jessie Duarte as his deputy.
The list will be sent to the various ANC provincial general councils this weekend for adoption, a source said.