Deputy President, and one of the frontrunners for ANC leader, Cyril Ramaphosa will have a tough time convincing some of his supporters to throw their weight behind his preferred deputy ahead of the party’s December elective conference.
The surprise announcement that he wants current ANC National Executive Committee member Naledi Pandor to be his deputy has been defended and criticised by his campaigners in various provinces.
Ramaphosa announced his slate on Sunday during a rally in Ga-Sekhukhune, Limpopo.
He expressed his support for Pandor as his deputy, current ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe as National Chairperson, former KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Senzo Mchunu as secretary general and Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile as the party’s treasurer general.
While Mantashe, Mchunu and Mashatile are seen as bringing support from their respective provinces, Pandor is regarded as bringing on the ticket a scandal free record in government, which Ramaphosa is hoping will stand him in good stead if he wins the elective conference and then have to face an increasing ANC hostile electorate in the 2019 elections.
Until now, Pandor’s name has not appeared on any of the CR17 campaign top six.
A source close to Ramaphosa’s campaign said initially he backed Sisulu but her “presidential ambitions” and public spats with some in Ramaphosa’s campaign did not help her cause.
“He wants to be deputised by a female comrade so that when the precedent system [is] applied after his presidency, we have a woman president – but Sisulu’s complicated it because she wanted to be president and thought even if she fails she can still be Ramaphosa’s DP,” he said.
However, some inside his campaign are not happy with his choice.
“He is imposing this name on us – it’s not well thought out,” said one CR17 campaigner in the Free State.
The same campaigner said he was worried that Ramaphosa was forcing ANC members to support Pandor’s bid to become president, should she one day decide to pursue it.
“This is to say when Cyril leaves Naledi must become president – they are going to ask us to follow the principle we are now preaching for Cyril to take over from [President Jacob] Zuma.”
At least two sources complained about Pandor’s age – despite the fact that she is 64 – and all other candidates mentioned are also in their early 60s.
“As young people, we also want this thing, don’t bring us bo magriza [old people], like Naledi. We want a chance at this thing before the ANC dies,” one source said.
Meanwhile, some campaigners in Mpumalanga said they had initially put forward Pandor’s name but withdrew it when Sisulu’s name was being touted. Branches have started nominating Sisulu.
Ironically, Sisulu has slammed the deputy president’s announcement of a running mate, saying: “US style politics were alien to the ANC traditions.
“Unfortunately, the recent pronouncement of a slate can only plunge our movement further deep[er] into the quagmire of disunity and divisions plaguing our body polotik,” said Sisulu.
The same Sisulu however, told Mail & Guardian in October that Ramaphosa was number two on her slate.
“I have no problem because on my slate, he is number two as well. He is the deputy. The people in my campaign welcome the idea and we welcome the deputy president to be the deputy president of our slate. So you can ask him that, I think he will do well as deputy,” said Sisulu.
Nothing uncommon in naming preferred leaders
News24’s resident analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela has described Ramaphosa’s move as normal, adding that often structures in the ANC pronounced on their preferences long before branches have a say.
However, he said the difference was Ramaphosa as a presidential candidate himself was announcing his preferred running mates.
Mkhabela said the ANC’s rebuking of Ramaphosa for his announcement was hypocritical as the all candidates had broken the party’s rules a long time ago.
“They were all campaigning long before they were allowed. Its seen as election gimmicks, nothing major,” added Mkhabela.
He also weighed in on the timing of Ramaphosa’s announcement saying he believed it was done in order to influence remaining branches ahead of the conference.
“He has now made it clear, the question now is: ‘Are the enough branches left to push Pandor through?’”
The analyst also viewed the move by the deputy president as an attempt to guide his supporters, who are seemingly divided on who should deputise him.
“Some don’t know anything about Pandor or her family; this is because she changed her surname when she got married and doesn’t go around speaking of her family,” said Mkhabela.
Pandor’s grandfather ZK Matthews and father Joe Matthews were both struggle icons, with the former being a prominent black academic, who was credited with sparking the idea and assisting in drawing up the Freedom Charter.
Mkhabela dismissed the “age” argument, describing it as an age-old debate between members of the ANC.
“All slates are old but Cyril’s slate is relatively younger than NDZ [the other front runner, former African Union commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma],” said Mkhabela.
He noted that an addition of either Thoko Didiza or even labour federation Cosatu’s deputy president Zingiswa Losi [both names which have been bandied about over the deputy secretary general position] would confirm this.