President Cyril Ramaphosa applauds at the end of the results ceremony at the Electoral Commission Results Centre in Pretoria yesterday. The ANC marked its weakest victory in national elections in a quarter-century, while Ramaphosa declared that the vote had given him and others “a firm mandate to build a better South Africa for all”. AP African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - As the ANC celebrates victory in South Africa’s sixth general election, it emerged that the governing party was embroiled in a succession debate over who will be President Cyril Ramaphosa’s deputy.

Apparently lobbying is under way in the ANC for a new deputy president as Ramaphosa prepares to announce his trimmed-down cabinet.

Controversial ministers seen as allies of former president Jacob Zuma and those at the centre of allegations of wrongdoing are expected to be axed.

It has come to light that Deputy President David Mabuza was no longer guaranteed to retain his powerful position as the second-in-command.

It is understood that factions in the ANC are pushing for former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma or International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to replace Mabuza.

Sisulu’s advisor, Thami ka Plaatjie, confirmed that the minister had been approached.

“We are aware of growing voices that seek her to take the position of deputy president and those that wish for a credible female candidate. But she is too focused on ANC and International Relations work to give any attention to such overtures,” he said.

ANC Women’s League secretary Meokgo Matuba confirmed talk that Dlamini Zuma was also a possible candidate. “We have heard about it (Dlamini Zuma being lobbied to be deputy president) but we can’t say anything”.

ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula said the party had been given a mandate to reconfigure the government.

“The ANC will discuss and give the president the mandate and he will then get together with the leaders of the ANC to constitute his cabinet on the 25 May after the inauguration (of the president),” he said.

Mbalula said the ANC’s position was to reduce the cabinet, given the harsh economic conditions prevailing in the country.

“We need competent individuals in cabinet. They’ve got the list, they’ve got everything to deal with those particular issues, but the principle of reducing cabinet is going to be implemented,” he said.

The governing party shed more than 1.4 million voters in Wednesday’s national and provincial elections in all nine provinces, suffering its biggest loss in KwaZulu-Natal. The official results showed the ANC’s seats in the 400-member Parliament fell to 230 from 249. The main opposition DA also saw its number of seats fall to 84 from 89, while the EFF gained 19 seats for a total of 44.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) declared the elections free and fair at the official announcement last night in Pretoria.

At the event Ramaphosa called on South Africans and political parties to accept the results of the general election. “Our people have spoken and have done this clearly and empathetically.

“We can declare with certainty that democracy has emerged victoriously in our country.”

He thanked all South Africans, the police and security companies, as well as the IEC staff.

“We watched you on screens wondering if you will falter or buckle. Thank you for serving our people.”

Speaking to the media just before the elections were declared, Mbalula reiterated that Ramaphosa had been the reason behind the ANC’s victory.

“We came from zero... to get 10 million is not a child’s play. It is hard work by this leadership, led by President Ramaphosa, who became a game changer in this election.

“People love him,” Mbalula said. “And from where we were, we were battered in terms of our image and he was a game-changer for the ANC.”

The 66-year-old president was “very safe” from internal challenges, he said.

“The ANC is very strong in protecting their leadership. Even if there are remnants trying their thing, they will not succeed.”

On Friday, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said people were electing the ANC, not an individual.

Election officials said voting had been generally smooth. But 27 smaller parties out of the 48 that ran alleged irregularities and threatened legal action, which the IEC said it would oppose.

Election analyst Wayne Sussman said the DA lost votes to the conservative Freedom Front Plus party, which capitalised on plans to allow land expropriation without compensation.

Whites, just 9% of the 56 million population, still own more than 70% of agricultural land.

“The DA wasn’t speaking enough about safety for farmers and agriculture for some voters,” Sussman said. “In some upper-middle-class suburbs which traditionally vote DA, there was also a swing to the ANC. This can be attributed partly to the Ramaphosa effect.”

While the DA retained control to the Western Cape, the provisional results showed the ANC won a tight race in Gauteng.

“The race for Gauteng was nail-biting and the last two nights have been sleepless. We cannot afford to lose the economic hub, that’s where the skills are,” Snuki Zikalala, president of the ANC veterans league, said.

“It’s a lesson that we should make sure that we win back the support of the middle-class and skilled people. We used to say we don’t care for clever blacks, that was a mistake. Those are the people who run the economy.”

Weekend Argus