16/12/2012. Premier of Limpopo, Cassel Matale talks on his phone during the 53rd ANC National Conference in Mangaung Picture: Masi Losi

LIMPOPO ANC provincial deputy chairman Dickson Masemola played down widespread reports yesterday that President Jacob Zuma’s triumph could signal the end of Cassel Mathale, his provincial chairman and premier.

Beaming from ear to ear, Masemola addressed, on the sidelines of the conference, an animated crowd of about 100 delegates shortly after the top six ANC officials were named.

He called for calm and for his fellow delegates to “extend an olive branch to those who were opposed to Zuma’s re-election”.

“The chairperson continues in his role,” he said after one of his delegation shouted that Mathale would not see the end of his chairmanship and premiership terms.

Mathale had associated himself with expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

Limpopo went to Mangaung with two delegations – one led by Mathale, who wanted deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to replace Zuma, and another led by Masemola that nominated Zuma for re-election.

“I’m happy with the outcome. We voted well,” Masemola said.

“The president communicated a clear message – there needs to be unity in the ANC, without such unity the ANC will die.”

Masemola, a non-voting delegate and education MEC, said he and the provincial executive were united and welcomed changes in the ANC. However, asked about a statement in October that said the provincial executive committee was nominating Motlanthe for president and which was sent to the media by provincial secretary Soviet Lekganyane, Masemola refused to answer.

“Go and speak to the office of the secretary,” he said.

Zuma’s re-election was a relief for Masemola who, as education MEC, found himself at the centre of the storm over textbooks.

“It is time to go back and canvass even those members who are not convinced by the victory,” he said. – Nathi Olifant