ANC Race: Khona ozokhala

There will be tears at the end of the ANC elective conference. Graphic Mallory Munien

There will be tears at the end of the ANC elective conference. Graphic Mallory Munien

Published Dec 18, 2022


Johannesburg - As the country awaits the final results of the new ANC leadership from the party’s elective conference at Nasrec, Johannesburg, President Cyril Ramaphosa might have himself to blame if he doesn’t get a second term.

The nominations process for the ANC's leadership succession race got underway around midnight yesterday with confirmation that President Cyril Ramaphosa will contest the party's number one position against former health minister Zweli Mkhize.

Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma became the first candidate to decline nomination for the presidency post after a delegate raised her name from the conference floor.

Deputy President David Mabuza also declined re-election for a second term, leaving treasurer-general Paul Mashatile, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane and justice minister Ronald Lamola to contest for the office.

For the national chairperson position, Gwede Mantashe also stood for a second term, challenged by deputy finance minister David Masondo and Limpopo premier Stan Mathabatha.

The secretary general position will be a three-horse race between transport minister Fikile Mbalula, public enterprises deputy minister Phumolo Masualle and former KwaZulu-Natal secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli.

In terms of amendments to the ANC constitution passed yesterday, the party will have two deputy secretaries-general.

Contesting the position of first deputy secretary-general will be the ANC's head of organising Nomvula Mokonyane and former Cabinet minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

The battle for the second deputy secretary-general will be between ANC Women's League national task team co-ordinator Maropene Ramokgopa and ANC Western Cape interim provincial committee co-ordinator Ronalda Nalumango.

Dr. Gwen Ramokgopa, co-ordinator in the secretary-general's office, was nominated by delegates to challenge President Cyril Ramaphosa's political adviser Bejani Chauke, ANC national spokesperson Pule Maybe and former Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina.

Voting is scheduled to start on Sunday morning, with results expected to be announced late at night.

ANC delegates attending the conference believe Ramaphosa’s campaign was only targeted at “clever blacks” and “suburbs” and forgot that the party branches would be represented by comrades from rural areas especially those coming from Mpumalanga, Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

“Even Ramaphosa’s closest ally, Bejani Chauke, made an honest observation when he said the president’s campaigners were clueless. You can’t have a guy like Derek Hanekom run your campaign if you are serious about winning an ANC conference.

“Hanekom can’t speak to anyone from Soweto, Alex or Mdantsane. Ramaphosa must take full responsibility for allowing useless people to run his campaign,” said one of the delegates from Mpumalanga, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

“In the ANC of today, if you differ with certain leaders you get expelled or suspended,” the same delegate added.

Another delegate from KZN said the difference between Ramaphosa and his presidential candidate rival, Zweli Mkhize, was that the former health minister “stepped down and allowed the investigation against him to run smoothly without his perceived interference”.

“Ramaphosa is running to courts where he knows judges will rule in his favour as long as he is still a sitting president. If he has nothing to hide, Ramaphosa would have followed Zweli’s example and stepped down and allowed the investigations against him to run smoothly without his perceived interference.”

This delegate said this was one of the reasons why KZN supported Mkhize’s campaign to be ANC president “because he didn’t hold on to power and fight to clear his name from the office but outside Cabinet,” he added.

KZN provincial chairperson Siboniso Duma said that because of the large numbers they have Mkhize would emerge victorious at the conference.

KZN brings the largest number of delegates to the conference, while their ally Limpopo, which is divided on who to support between Mkhize and Ramaphosa, has the third largest number of delegates. The Eastern Cape comes second.

“Comrade Zweli is going to win because we have numbers. We are not just going to be antagonistic towards anything amongst ourselves because we don’t want to be still characterised as inward-looking.

“We embrace every comrade, and we love every comrade but we have our choice, which is Dr Zweli Mkhize when it comes to our candidate. We are going to make sure that we synergise. The conference should be smooth. The conference must address almost all the matters that are critical,” Duma said.

Ramaphosa went into the conference as a limping buffalo after having survived a possible impeachment in Parliament for his role in the Phala Phala farm robbery where an undisclosed amount of US dollars that were concealed in furniture were stolen from his farm.

“Cyril didn’t win the fight but ANC members of Parliament were instructed to vote on the party line, not to support the vote to impeach him, instead of using their conscience and discretion.

“The president is yet to clear his name of the Phala Phala scandal and we can’t support a leader like that who hides behind courts and intimidates party members not to make their own independent decisions. Only dictators do that.”

Mkhize, who is himself facing the Digital Vibe scandal, was cleared by Parliament’s ethics committee and is challenging the ANC integrity committee decision on the matter. But he voluntarily stepped down as the health minister, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, when the scandal broke.

It is reported that Mkhize consolidated his campaign on Friday night when he had secret meetings with Lindiwe Sisulu and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to support his campaign to be the next ANC president.

“It was a fruitful meeting and Zweli got all the necessary support he needed and now you have the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, which are the biggest provinces in terms of the number of delegates at this conference,” one of Mkhize’s close allies said.

The ally claims that Dlamini Zuma agreed to be the national chairperson should Mkhize get nominated to be the ANC president.

“Zweli is still in talks with David Mabuza to continue as his deputy president if nominated from the floor, and there is still no position yet for Lindiwe Sisulu,” he added.

The other source said the biggest challenge was that “all these leaders want to emerge as president of the ANC from the conference”.

“Instead of supporting one of them, getting all their numbers behind him or her, each one of them is trying to win the election on his or her (own) which weakens their numbers and gives Ramaphosa a good chance to win,” he said.


Ramaphosa dominated the outcomes of the ANC leadership nominations but with the last-minute lobbying of delegates going into overdrive inside the conference precinct, the initial picture continued to distort.

As Ramaphosa kicked off the proceedings at the watershed national elective conference on Friday to deliver his political report, he lacked decisive command of the voting delegates and any neutral would have bet that Mkhize could steal the show.

The presentation largely turned out to be a miserable session for Ramaphosa as a vocal group of delegates led mainly by the KZN contingent challenged his influence and disrupted his prepared speech.

The Sunday Independent heard that Ramaphosa’s lieutenant and ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe started the conference before all the delegates could be registered, which was suspected to be a plot to secure bigger support for his candidate at the expense of those delegates who were yet to be confirmed.

“They started the conference before everyone could register so that they could adopt credentials quicker. (Mantashe) wanted the president to deliver the report and immediately after that he wanted the credentials to be adopted,” said an insider.

The person said the KZN ANC leaders, Siboniso Duma and secretary Bheki Mtolo, took to the stage and told Mantashe that the president was not even supposed to start to give the political report.

While the Mkhize lobbyists are buoyant about victory, the outcome of the 2017 conference still rings in many people's heads. The tables turned and positions were won through the narrowest of margins. Many even suggested that numbers were manipulated with the hope of finding a balance and appeasing all sides. As a result of that, Ramaphosa’s backers still harbour a bit of faith and hope.


A lobby from within the Ramaphosa camp, aptly dubbed generational takeover, sprang into life in the middle of conference proceedings, punting Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola as Ramaphosa’s second in command.

The youthful and vibrant slate also featured former KZN ANC secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli as the secretary-general, as well as Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo as the new party chairperson.

Yesterday a lobbyist in the group claimed that their campaign had the edge because “young people make up the majority of conference delegates”. The person said the lobby was looking to bring on Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi to attain a gender balance.

To put forward an inclusive posture, the lobby was also considering backing ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe’s campaign to become the new ANC treasurer-general. Mabe said he did not know about the campaign.


By yesterday Mkhize’s lobbyists claimed to have won over the support of the delegates for the Sekhukhune region in Limpopo.

“Limpopo is very good because our delegates from Limpopo are sleeping with our delegates from KZN. We are not worried about what the provincial leaders are saying because we have delegates on the ground,” said a campaigner, adding that, all together, Mkhize was comfortable getting over 200 votes from the province.

“We have managed to get 67 from the Sekhukhune region. Then in the rest of the province we are sitting at 193 delegates. The total is a very good number because we have 260 votes.”

Coming to the national conference, Limpopo was expected to bring 646 voting delegates. Further negotiations with Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha’s camp were due to be held late yesterday afternoon. The Mkhize camp was weighing their options between Mathabatha and Masondo.


In Gauteng, previously dubbed one of Ramaphosa’s strongholds, the Mkhize camp held a close session in Greater Johannesburg that was attended by 69 out of 110 conference delegates.

“Ekurhuleni has been supporting us from day one, even before the nominations started and even in 2017. We have consolidated the Sedibeng region, so we are fine there,” said a lobbyist.

“The only region in Gauteng where we would probably get 30% was the West Rand,” the person said, adding that in Gauteng, Mkhize was betting on scoring nothing less than 65% of support.

“That is why even in the provincial general council they did not pronounce the president because the delegates said if you want to pronounce (Paul) Mashatile you can do that, but our focus is on the president.”

The other source, who asked not to be named, said the provinces were dumping Mashatile because he “failed the ANC as a treasurer-general”.

“Paul failed the ANC, he failed to keep lights on at Luthuli House, he failed to pay salaries for the staff and he was openly supporting a certain faction of the party. He was plotting the downfall of some of our comrades instead of raising money for the organisation ... Paul was only looking after himself as Paul Mashatile and his personal interests and ambitions.”

The conference continues until Monday.