ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/ANA

Johannesburg - ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s insistence on protecting his right to be a candidate in the party’s hotly contested succession race has earned him the wrath of President Jacob Zuma’s supporters.

On Tuesday, Mantashe dismissed backers of presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for questioning his inclusion as national chairperson on Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s slate for the elective conference next month.

The Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) went to the extent of threatening that they would boo Ramaphosa when he addresses them, as the deputy president and Mantashe were divisive in the ANC.

ANC leagues on Tuesday accused Mantashe of factionalism for his links to Ramaphosa’s campaign, arguing that he undermined the secretary-general's office.

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Addressing the media on the outcomes of the ruling party’s special national executive committee meeting, Mantashe said he had a right to have a choice and a preference, as campaigning was now open.

ANC Youth League national spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize said Mantashe was wrong to associate himself with Ramaphosa’s campaign.

“Our view is that the SG’s office must be conducted in a manner that gives it dignity, and while this does not stop him from having a preference, it places a lot of responsibility on him in terms of conduct,” he said.

Mantashe asked what would Dlamini Zuma and her backers do if he also contested for the presidency, as was the case with some of the party’s officials.

“The possibility with the stability that we are having is that you could have a GM17 now contesting to be president. Would they say ‘no, the SG cannot be contesting the position of the president’ because he is a secretary-general?” Mantashe asked.

He defended his availability to serve and called on his detractors to campaign and win the upcoming election instead of being petty.

“Three of the six officials are candidates for president, and nobody makes any noise about that,” Mantashe said.

With now only four weeks left before the ANC’s crucial national elective congress, Dlamini Zuma and Ramaphosa have emerged as the main contenders in the race as the ruling party’s branches continue to finalise their nominations for the upcoming conference.

Mantashe complained that Zuma and Dlamini Zuma’s backers were allowed to endorse her presidential campaign.

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“In Kimberley, in a government event, there was singing of ‘We are ready, we are ready for Nkosazana’, and there was no noise about that,” he said.

MKMVA head Kebby Maphatsoe defended Zuma, saying he was only singing along at the event. “You can’t sit down when people are singing and you know he (Zuma) likes to sing,” he said.

He accused Mantashe and Ramaphosa of creating a wrong precedent by openly declaring their preferences, adding he and his faction would not respect Ramaphosa if he wins.

“Because of what they have done, it will be difficult to bring unity in the ANC. When he (Ramaphosa) addresses us, we will boo him and say we can’t hear from you,” Maphatsoe said.

The ANC’s special NEC has appointed a seven-member appeal panel to probe the party’s disputed Eastern Cape conference, which descended into chaos as warring factions fought with chairs.

The panel will be chaired by NEC member Sbu Ndebele and include three other NEC members as well as three administrators who will send their report and recommendations to the party’s last NEC meeting.

Former provincial chairperson and current premier Phumulo Masualle, with other former provincial executive committee (PEC) members, launched an appeal with the national body against the validity of the conference.

Mantashe reiterated that current provincial top brass under current chairperson Oscar Mabuyane would remain in place, as the NEC had not disbanded it.

This is despite its legitimacy being questioned by structures aligned to Dlamini Zuma, including the Amathole district.

Mabuyane and his faction are backing Ramaphosa.

“There is a PEC in the Eastern Cape. It is not removed, it is being appealed," Mantashe said.

With almost 70% of branches across the country having already convened their general meetings, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal remained behind with the nomination meeting at 56% and 40.8% respectively, despite the deadline being today.

The NEC meeting over the weekend has resolved to allow branches until this weekend to hold the meetings.

Politics Bureau