Kalema Motlanthe congratulates Jacob Zuma on stage. Picture: Antoine de Ras

Bloemfontein - As the ANC national conference in Mangaung ended on Thursday, deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe's withdrawal from party leadership posts remained the most tantalising talking point.

While Jacob Zuma was re-elected to the party's top position, ousted youth league leader Julius Malema - who had once promised to kill and/or die for Zuma - had his expulsion seemingly sealed.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said a request by Malema and two of his dethroned colleagues for their positions back, would not be entertained.

The matter was “exhausted and finished”, Mantashe said.

Motlanthe went up against and lost to Zuma for the role of party president. Motlanthe also withdrew his nomination for deputy party president. The position went to billionaire businessman and one of the original writers of the country's Constitution, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Holding up a peace sign in a photograph taken shortly after his defeat, Motlanthe later delivered a speech in which he termed the ANC “the epitome of democracy”.

Motlanthe's future intentions baffled many when a short while after, he also declined nomination for any of the NEC's 80 positions.

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said Motlanthe laughed off the suggestion that he would step down as the country's deputy president.

“I spoke to the deputy president. He just laughed and said: 'Where do they get these horror stories?'“

The success of slate voting seemed evident when the rest of the top six NEC positions were won by candidates closely aligned with Zuma.

Mantashe and Baleka Mbethe were re-elected to their positions as secretary-general and chairwoman respectively. Ramaphosa, along with Jessie Duarte as deputy secretary-general and Zweli Mkhize as treasurer-general, were the new faces at the top six table.

On Thursday, Ramaphosa said he had called for a review of his business dealings. He has his own company, Shanduka Holdings, and is chairman of the Bidvest Group and MTN, as well as the owner of the South African franchise of McDonalds.

“This is necessary to address any potential conflicts of interest, and to ensure that I can adequately perform the responsibilities of this position,” he said.

Besides Motlanthe, several other prominent ANC members declined nomination for the NEC.

Others who said no included presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj, Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, struggle stalwart Jay Naidoo and Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

A total of 295 nominees were put through for voting.

Party delegates were boisterous during the voting phase of the conference. When not waving fans to combat the heat, they sang and danced, praising candidates they liked and mocking those they did not.

However, everyone soon got down to business as policy discussions got underway.

ANC economic transformation policy commission head Malusi Gigaba said the conference had resolved that wholesale nationalisation was “off the table”. There would be “strategic nationalisation” where necessary.

Fighting corruption was also raised as a key issue.

ANC constitutional affairs sub-committee chairman Collins Chabane said financial crimes by a party member would now feature in disciplinary procedures and lead to automatic expulsion.

ANC Gauteng secretary David Makhura said an integrity committee would be established in the next three months to deal with members accused of misconduct.

“The committee will help us nip corruption in the bud,” he said.

There were also lighter moments at the conference. Opinions were divided on Twitter over whether the woman who sang the national anthem at the conference's opening sounded like a dying goose or a goat being slaughtered.

Zelda la Grange, former president Nelson Mandela's personal assistant, tweeted: “This chick can't sing for shit!”. University of the Free State rector Jonathan Jansen, tweeted a request to “bring back Cde Ras Dumisani”.

Dumisani is infamous for his off-key performance of the anthem ahead of a rugby test in 2009.

Mantashe was teased by journalists at a press briefing about whether a storm on Wednesday afternoon might be the result of the ANC's ancestors being upset.

“Rain is a blessing. A storm is rain in a different form,” he replied. - Sapa