Cape Town - The postponement of Deputy President David Mabuza’s swearing-in as an MP has once again lifted the lid on the raging battle within the governing party over who will be the country’s second-in-command.
In a dramatic turn of events early on Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office at the party’s headquarters announced that Mabuza had requested not to be sworn-in as an MP, pending his engagement next week with the party’s integrity committee, which had earlier called on him and 21 other ANC leaders, including chairperson Gwede Mantashe, to step down from the party’s parliamentary list.
Former Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s withdrawal from Parliament also added to a day of high drama, which saw Ramaphosa elected unopposed to continue in the highest position at the Union Buildings.
Intense lobbying is under way to convince Ramaphosa to select Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor or former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to succeed Mabuza when he announces his new Cabinet, expected on Sunday.
Ramaphosa is under immense pressure from within and outside the ANC to appoint a Cabinet that doesn’t have tainted leaders and would appease investors and rating agencies.
Independent Media reported two weeks ago that Dlamini Zuma and International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu were front runners for the position of deputy president.
ANC head of presidency Zizi Kodwa said the only position in terms of the ANC constitution that was guaranteed in the Cabinet was that of the president.
“The rest, even from the deputy president downwards, can only be at the prerogative of the president,” Kodwa said.
He quashed speculation of a woman possibly taking over as deputy president after Mabuza asked for postponement of his swearing-in.
“The request for postponement is not a decision of appointing a deputy of the republic. It is only the president who will make that decision at the weekend,” Kodwa said.
In its report the commission had flagged Mabuza along with other senior party leaders including Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe and Mokonyane.
Kodwa said Mabuza’s postponement of his swearing-in has nothing to do with the Cabinet.
He would not be drawn on whether Ramaphosa would appoint another person as deputy president when he makes the announcement on Sunday.
“That is the decision of the president. At the moment we are dealing with the request of the swearing-in. The request for the postponement has nothing to do with the cabinet,” said Kodwa.
Integrity Commission chairperson George Mashamba confirmed that Mabuza and other leaders of the party would face the commission between Sunday and Tuesday.
“We will be meeting with everybody who would like to meet with us between Sunday and Tuesday,” said Mashamba.
Asked whether Mabuza will no longer serve as deputy president of the country, he said that question was for the ANC to answer as it deployed people in Parliament.
“The ANC will decide what will happen because it sends people to Parliament,” said Mashamba.
The commission will hand over its report to the ANC after it has finished interviewing the 22 people next week.
In his acceptance speech, Ramaphosa assured EFF leader Julius Malema that he will not serve the interests of individuals or groups, but will work for all South Africans.
“My focus with Malema was to advance the interests of the masses of our people, who still suffer under the burden of poverty. No special interests, only the interests of our people alone,” said Ramaphosa.
It is understood that in the expectation that some ANC MPs won’t vote for him had voting happened, Ramaphosa reached out to Malema to have the red berets voting for him.
Sources in the EFF revealed that Ramaphosa went into a “closed” meeting with Malema, during which he offered the EFF two deputy positions in his executive, which Malema declined.
Ramaphosa’s anxiety is said to have increased when Mabuza declined a parliamentary position, opting to stay at the party’s headquarters, Luthuli House.
If the National Assembly had opted for a secret vote it would have likely embarrassed Ramaphosa because of the presence of MPs believed to be in ANC secretary Ace Magashule’s camp.