By Sipho Khumalo

THE defeat of Kgalema Motlanthe by Jacob Zuma in the contest for the presidency of the ANC in Mangaung yesterday presents both the former deputy president and his ruling party with tough choices.

Also the way the party and Motlanthe manage the possible fall-out from this contest could be test of the most sought unity within the ANC, which was riddled with divisions and factions ahead of the Mangaung indaba currently underway.

This was the view of political commentators who spoke to the Cape Times.

Independent political analysts Aubrey Matshiqi and Dr Somadoda Fikeni said what would be uppermost in the mind of Motlanthe was whether he should stay-on as the deputy president of the country or quit.

Matshiqi said given the track record of how Motlanthe had behaved in the built-up to the conference he would do take a decision that was in the “best interest of the ANC.”

“In my reading of what is in the best interest of the ANC , he is going to say let me resign as the deputy president so that I give the president in the context of the govern to build a new relations with the new deputy president (Cyril Ramaphosa).

“But he could also say to resign will appear as if he is sulking and would want to do what do what the party says he shouldn’t do,” said Matshiqi.

However, Fikeni predicted a cabinet reshuffle in the next six months.

“As for deputy president he may decide he wants to resign to give Zuma space to work with his deputy or he may be convinced to stay on.

“But that will depend on their chemistry on whether they still complement each other or they have some difficulties,” said Fikeni.

He said the other option was for Zuma and Motlanthe to stay as they are until there were some difficulties in the way they relate or work with each other.

“Should he move out under negative circumstance, we might have a replay of what we saw in 2005, a person who have salary with security and convoy of cars leaves without any job description from the ANC (the way Zuma was fired by former president Thabo Mbeki)

“If that is the case he (Motlanthe) will go out and hope to come back lifted on the shoulders of people saying he had not been tainted with what has happened,” he said.

Fikeni said, however, the likelihood of Motlanthe returning to haunt the ANC on the shoulders of people would very much depended on how the ANC managed the situation post Mangaung.

Significantly, any purging of those who had wanted Zuma out would undermine his call for unity and for letting bygones be bygones.

But what about those three ministers: Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile, Human Settlements’s Toyko Sexwale and Sports and Recreation’s Fikile Mbalula who openly revolted against Zuma leadership?

Fikeni said they were already a precedent set in 2009 when some cabinet who were loyal to Mbeki were retained in Zuma cabinet.

“But in some cases they may decide that we do not have a working relationship with the president and may resign, triggering a cabinet reshuffle.

“This cabinet reshuffle will come in a number of ways. Those who worked hard for Zuma in the provinces may not encourage his accomodationist style and will precipitate a crisis they will create space for them.

“But a person like Mashatile who still chairs Gauteng he will still be seating in the NEC as an ex-officio member. If his life is made unbearable nationally he may take refuge in Gauteng, making life difficult for those currently deployed there (such as premier Nomvula Mokonyane)”, warned Fikeni.

Sapa quoted Mashatile as saying he was not concerned that the province's campaign to replace Zuma would negatively impact on his future in the party.

“If the president decides to deploy me or not to deploy me, that is his choice,” Mashatile said.

Fikeni’s reading of Zuma’s impromptu message of reconciliation and unity was that it sought to achieve two objectives.

“The message is two-pronged and a double edged sword. “Firstly it was that conference has spoken and he expects ever body to respect that. Secondly he was saying let us accommodate and strive for unity. It was a positive intervention and also a signal for an overture to conference that now that NEC positions are available, do not forget them (those who were defeated). In a way he might be appealing for a leadership mix”, said Fikeni.