Minister of Tourism Lindiwe Sisulu is playing her cards close to her chest about her presidential ambitions as slates for the ANC’s 55th elective conference have started doing rounds.
Sisulu, 67, a long-serving ANC member of parliament and a member of the party’s National Executive Committee, sparked controversy last week with her scathing opinion on the judiciary and constitution.
Her opinions were especially critical of the judicial system, which prompted Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to call a press conference, where he expressed his disappointment with Sisulu’s commentary.
While Sisulu said her opinion was purely based on socio-economic conditions of the poor and the marginalised masses, not politics, it was still perceived as a strategy to launch the ANC presidential campaign by some.
There opinions were based largely on the fact that Sisulu has been a member of parliament since the dawn of democracy, under the same constitution and judiciary she was critical of, but never raised any issues in the past 27 years. Sisulu’s presidential ambitions are well recorded, having run a botched presidential campaign in 2017.
Asked about the timing of her opinion, Sisulu’s spokesman, Steve Motale, downplayed the issue and said it was unfortunate that most of the media inquiries received were about the state of the ANC, while her opinion piece was entirely focussed on socio-economic conditions of the poor and the marginalised masses.
“Minister Sisulu is satisfied that her opinion piece has contributed immensely to public discourse. She has also been humbled by the massive support she has received from South Africans from all walks of life, who share her sentiments.”
Motale admitted that Sisulu had been “hearing the noise” about her standing for the position of ANC president at the party’s forthcoming national conference.
Quizzed whether Sisulu would accept the call should formal structures of the ANC nominated her, he said: “She will apply her mind.”
Motale did not respond whether Sisulu was in support of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign to be re-elected for the second term as ANC president.
“Like President Ramaphosa, who said he keeps hearing noises about him serving the second term, the Minister also keeps hearing the noise about her standing for the position of ANC president at the party’s forthcoming national conference,” Motale said.
In her 2017, Sisulu’s campaign was dubbed as “non-factional” and detached from slates that were formulated.
At the time, Sisulu said she felt that slates were destroying the culture of the ANC. While she has not been featured in any of the slates doing rounds on social media, it was believed that she was likely to get support from the group known as the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) forces.
The RET are staunch supporters of former President Jacob Zuma, who were still bitter over the outcome in 2017 election conference, which saw Ramaphosa emerging victorious.
The RET grouping supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s over Ramaphosa in 2017.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said that Sisulu’s opinion piece had come under much scrutiny and was deemed an insult to the integrity of the judiciary.
“Usually when you see political leaders doing it, it means they believe they stand for something and they want to be seen as standing for something else… this is the first step towards that,” Mathekga said.
About her branching to the RET forces, Mathekga said if there was a vacuum of leadership she had every right to exploit it.
If It’s an available voting block and has no one who is a proponent and she sees that space, probably that is what she is doing. The reality is that these are all ANC members, these are all factions and even a good faction is still a faction.
“At the end of the day the ANC is divided and people are seeing an opportunity to say they can build the political party and they have campaigned based on these divisions,” Mathekga said. Additional reporting by Samkelo Mtshali.