ANC leadership: change, but no change

Posted on December 19, 2017


Looked at in isolation, the election of the ANC’s “top six” at the governing party’s Nasrec conference, provides a classic example of the more things change, the more they stay the same. If anything, the divide between the two broad factions has been highlighted, with three known supporters on either side, a possible recipe for political stagnation.

However, the real engine of power within the ANC rests with the national executive committee. The composition of this 80-member NEC will be the final determinant of whether Cyril Ramaphosa has the power and authority to take the actions his supporters want and demand.

Heading these demands is that — without fear or favour — action be taken against those individuals implicated in corruption and exposed largely through the leaked “Gupta emails”. This much was spelled out this morning by SA Communist Party second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila.

But implicated in allegations of wrongdoing as well as links to the Gupta family is Ace Magashule, who now holds the powerful post of ANC secretary general. And an individual around whom perhaps even more allegations swirl, is the new deputy president of the party, David Mabuza. The two men are key figures in what was known as the “Premier league” that supported President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma himself, through all his travails, was able to maintain his position and to avoid pubic censure from the ANC or even removal from office, by relying on a majority within the NEC. Today, the more than 4 000 delegates will vote for the incoming committee and, as a result, there has been fierce lobbying going on, especially since most delegates are unaware of who the various candidates are.

All that seems certain is that the existing broad divisions within the party will remain. But, should the “Ramaphosa faction” emerge as the NEC majority, the newly elected president’s hand will be strengthened. This could justify the generally cautious welcome given to his election by the likes of the Chamber of Mines and the general secretary of the Federation of Unions of SA, Dennis George.

Alternatively, whatever happens, it could be a case of Ramaphosa having been handed a poisoned chalice. Or, as the general secretary of the SA Federation of Labour, Zwelinzima Vavi remarked following the election of Mabuza and Magashule: “All this will do is entrench the Guptarisation of the country.”

Posted in: Commentary