Sisulu shapes up as Cyril’s Number 2

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has emerged as the favourite for the position of ANC deputy president despite Cyril Ramaphosa publicly endorsing Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor for the number two position.

Although Sisulu’s presidential campaign may be flagging, she has harshly criticised the prevalent bribing of delegates, which she says has undermined the ANC’s regeneration initiatives.

So far, Sisulu has been nominated by two provinces — the Northern Cape and Western Cape — to be Ramaphosa’s deputy.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian this week, Sisulu said she had not thought about the possibility of serving as Ramaphosa’s deputy, and was focusing on getting her message across.

“I haven’t sat down to think through the deputy president position. I have been selling a particular message and that’s in the manifesto,” she said.

“Whether I make it as an ordinary member of the NEC [national executive committee] or nothing at all, we would have sent a particular message — that we need a change of narrative and deep introspection. A renewal and actually ensuring we can get back to the values that make us different from Cope [Congress of the People] or any other organisation.”

Sisulu also bemoaned the dominance of money over the social media campaign in the ANC’s succession race. It is the first time that ANC candidates have used social media to campaign for a party president.

“I wish that the opening up of new media platforms was as powerful as the power of money. What I have discovered, much to my dismay, is that the power of money is in the body politic of the ANC, through and through. The campaign for the regeneration of values is being bought out by the power of money on a regular basis.”

She said, throughout the preparation and nominations for the conference, money was changing hands.

“And as long as branches are being bought, we are sowing the seeds of corruption. The more money you have, the better chance you have at getting wherever you want to go. And throughout this period delegates have had their hands glazed. It’s quite unfortunate.”

Sisulu is being nominated on Ramaphosa’s slate along with Gwede Mantashe as chairperson, Gauteng ANC leader Paul Mashatile as treasurer and former ANC KwaZulu-Natal leader Senzo Mchunu as secretary general.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s slate includes Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza as her deputy, Free State Premier Ace Magashule as secretary general, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa as chairperson and International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane as treasurer.

While the horse-trading goes on over positions in a bid to ensure a united ANC after the conference, Sisulu this week said the gathering was not about personalities but about what it would mean for the ANC at the 2019 elections.

“It’s a pity that by its very nature the space we’re in now concentrates on the person. The issue is: What do we want from this conference? I want to ensure that the ANC emerges in 2019 with a clear win and a mandate from the people. This conference will decide whether or not we have a decisive victory, and we need that.”

Ramaphosa shocked many of his supporters when he publicly endorsed Pandor as his deputy, following rumours that Sisulu had rejected his overtures to be part of the CR17 campaign. But branches continued to nominate the daughter of struggle icons Walter and Albertina Sisulu.

In the Western Cape, Sisulu received a majority of nominations, beating Pandor by 98 votes to 17. In the Free State, the ANC held a hastily organised provincial general council — from which Ramaphosa’s supporters were missing.

Mabuza was the overwhelming favourite of Free State delegates for the position of ANC deputy president with 208 votes — his first provincial nomination. But Sisulu came in at second place, with 28 votes, which is an indication that she is Ramaphosa’s backers’ candidate for deputy.

The falling-out between Ramaphosa and Sisulu emanates from her refusal to be solely a candidate for deputy president when some branches were asking her to stand for the position of president. She also angered some in the Ramaphosa camp after she questioned Mantashe’s struggle credentials.

Speaking to the M&G in October, Sisulu said she had chosen Ramaphosa to be her deputy as part of her campaign.

This week, she said her campaign was meant to get her elected as president.

“The position of running a campaign, it’s run by a presidential candidate and that gives us a particular space to send a message. And that’s what we have done.”

The ANC’s number two position is likely be expanded at the conference. Constitutional amendments currently being discussed by branches include creating posts for two deputy presidents.

At the national policy conference, President Jacob Zuma proposed automatically awarding one deputy president position to the loser of the presidential contest and letting the other position be contested.

The proposal for two deputy presidents has also received support from presidential candidates such as ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize, although he believes both deputy president positions should be contested.

But Sisulu said she was not aware of the proposal being discussed by branches and, even if it was, the ANC would only be able to implement the changes at the 2021 conference.

“I go to my branches regularly and haven’t come across them [proposed amendments] and my branches are in deep rural areas. For something like this to take root, it would have had to be discussed in the policy conference. You would have needed to educate people about the possibility and what the up and downside is for them to have even taken a mandate,” she said.

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