President Jacob Zuma’s lobbyists have 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’s 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) should Zuma be 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”.
While Motlanthe’s lobbyists insisted he would dislodge Zuma, they said the inclusion into the NEC of the top six leaders from the losing side was part of the 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 Tuesday’s caucus, which The Star has seen, most of Motlanthe’s prominent backers would be accommodated except ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa.
This list included fired National Police commissioner Bheki Cele, former ANCYL secretary-general Vuyiswa Tulelo, former Limpopo ANCYL chairman Lehlogonolo Masoga and Limpopo ANC deputy chairman Dickson Masemola.
Apart from Zuma and Ramaphosa, the list has Baleka Mbete as 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.
“Kgalema refused our offer to remain deputy president. We are putting him in as an additional [member]. You can’t have an NEC that always agrees with the president. It is dangerous to have an NEC that has no opposition within. It is the same thing that killed [Thabo] Mbeki. He thought he was powerful because he running the NEC,” said the Zuma lobbyist.
The caucus also took decisions with far-reaching implications for provinces such as Limpopo and the North West.
It agreed to allow Modise to continue as North West premier.
North West ANC chairman Supra Mahumapelo, who was earlier tipped to take over, would be elevated to the NEC and appointed minister.
In Limpopo, the caucus agreed to push for the disbandment of the anti-Zuma provincial executive committee – led by Premier Cassel Mathale, who is an ally of Malema – and appoint an interim committee to run its affairs.
They also wanted the post-Mangaung NEC to decide at its first meeting in January to fire Mathale as premier and replace him with Masoga. Masoga’s mandate would be to “clean” the province, which has been rocked by repeated allegations of tender fraud, corruption and nepotism. It was plunged into a R2.2 billion cash-flow crisis last year and subsequently failed to buy textbooks for thousands of its pupils.
The caucus pushed for Masoga to take over in Limpopo, rather than Masemola as previously agreed, because it believed he was tainted by the textbook scandal, said sources.
“The issue of textbooks has made us jokes in the eyes of the public. It made us a circus in Mzansi. You can’t say that a person who was education MEC must be premier. It will mean you replace Cassel with Cassel,” said one source.
But a pro-Motlanthe regional leader said disbanding the PEC and appointing Masoga as premier would be “suicidal” and “a dangerous move”.
“The problem is that it will cause very serious tension. Even as we speak, comrades who have a problem with Lehlogonolo never stoop so low as to remove him from the legislature.
‘‘That would be suicidal for the 2014 elections because it might cause serious rifts among members and push people away,” said the leader.