Will the NDZ deputy presidency of SA mean anything for ANC unity?

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Clyde Ramalaine 

Is Ramaphosa really in control of the ANC? 

On a wintry morning of May 8, 22000 bar five voting stations opened to grant South Africans their democratic franchise to participate in a sixth national election. With voting stations closed and counting underway, we have just entered the post-election period. The pre-voting election manifold polls showed schizophrenic differences in anticipated outcomes in what appeared to be a contestation of polls seeking to make their own marks in influencing an outcome. There is little doubt that the ANC has won its sixth elections with a lesser margin despite a rain-soaked elections day.

However, beyond the outcome of these elections, we must engage what will happen now that Ramaphosa finally is no more a caretaker but the fourth ballot-elected president to lead SA. The million-dollar question remains, is the man that white voters desperately wanted to lead SA really in charge of the ANC? Some claim he is in control, yet for others that battle is long lost and unfortunately, no public relations intervention can fix that.

The next event on elected president Ramaphosa’s schedule is his appointment of a cabinet. He responded to a question on this at the Chiawelo voting-station, in stressing that the decision of the cabinet is his and his alone. This is an interesting statement given the fact that Ramaphos in 2017 was one of those who accused his predecessor of not consulting the ANC office bearers on the subject of a cabinet reshuffle.

Since last week social media was flooded with an unconfirmed cabinet-list.  An interesting feature of this ‘cabinet list’ is the presence of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma featured as the new deputy president? Dlamini-Zuma fits hand in glove in the Ramaphosa current cabinet. It was also unfair to have assumed she would not fit given her history of faithful service in previous cabinets.

As stated, elsewhere the choice in options between who was to lead the ANC beyond Zuma, namely Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa were never an authentic one of existential ideological difference understood in terms of class consciousness. Neither of the two front runners and obvious choice binaries represented the cause of Radical Economic Transformation, and land redress as an authentic personal conviction in a historical precedent as recorded.

In addition, neither Ramaphosa nor Dlamini-Zuma could automatically claim the black (especially African) pro-poor constituency support that Zuma increasingly came to represent would automatically endorse them. Jacob Zuma may have sensed this too and therefore made an unprecedented public overture in support of Dlamini-Zuma again for a set of reasons that detail a combination of self and his constituency interest.

It is also common knowledge that Dlamini-Zuma did not invent Radical Economic Transformation (RET) or the rightful Land Redress claim, but she, unlike Ramaphosa and all other contenders of the 2017 campaign, at the time, was willing to associate with the radical the reality of the People’s Campaign.

Dlamini – Zuma as a politician and part of the ANC elite, was pragmatic enough to read the mood of South Africa and understood the need for fundamental economic redress with benefit for the masses, hence her acceptance of nomination to campaign around what she read at an external to herself reality.

The NDZ campaign was from the start for some of us that supported it an expressed hope that the tidal-wave of RET and land demands would carry her to political and ideological pro-working class and pro-poor spaces, where she plausibly would never have swim by herself, and therefore, resulting in the people’s cause as the ultimate winner.

What then would a Dlamini-Zuma appointment as deputy president mean? It could communicate a number of things. Let us also accept that this is no reflection on Nkosazana Dlamini as a known highly skilled and seasoned official, it is a known fact that she served both Mandela and Mbeki cabinets and more recently also as the first African Union woman Chairperson. She is currently equally serving the Ramaphosa caretaker presidency as Minister in the Office of the president since early 2018. It is reasoned fresh from the bruising Nasrec battle Ramaphosa was advised to bring Dlamini-Zuma and Bathabile Dlamini into the presidency as directly under his eye, control and hand.

Her anticipated appointment, be it as a tester to public opinion, or real, may directly mean that Ramaphosa has not warmed towards the idea of considering Lindiwe Sisulu as was expected by some during his campaign for ANC high office. We will recall that at the time he broke with ANC practice and announced his slate or ‘winning team’ as he dubbed it. Despite talks with Sisulu, his slate opted for Naledi Pandor as the preferred number two.

Interestingly enough as can be gleaned from the same ‘cabinet list’ current DIRCO minister Lindiwe Sisulu besides not being the deputy is also not retained in her current position. It could mean that the gap between Ramaphosa and Sisulu is much wider than back in 2017. We may only wonder what in recent months may have contributed to this perceived cold-blood.

On another score is this latently rewarding Dlamini-Zuma in recognition of a tough ANC 2017 elections which many believe she won save for a last-minute betrayal of current deputy president David Mabuza? Ramaphosa may communicate his recognition of this open secret. On another level, he may also be rewarding her for her role and work performed while serving in this presidency.

Key among the overall good work, Dlamini-Zuma is accredited for is the dealing with the North West, former premier Supra Mahumapelo problem.  The move to have her lead the team to resolve the North-West impasse which saw Ramaphosa leave an international commitment in mid-air to attend to this crisis was a clever and tactical move on the part of Ramaphosa. For many, Ramaphosa used Dlamini-Zuma to ultimately deal with Mahumapelo, hence she is seen as having fired the proverbial shot.

Perhaps on a more significant level, some may argue Ramaphosa’s appointment of Dlamini- Zuma may be his clearest message of work for unity thus burying the hatchet of a bruising ANC 2017 elections fight that left the ANC ravaged. As romantic and brave this attempt might purport to be it rings hollow. The claim of appointing Dlamini-Zuma as deputy president as a confirmation of unity could be a very misplaced one since it is assumed that Dlamini-Zuma represents a faction or even a constituency. The challenge here is that Dlamini-Zuma is posthumously afforded a constituency.

It is a known fact that Dlamini-Zuma in and of herself never represented her own constituency. Her NDZ17 candidacy while initiated by the ANC Women’s League, under the leadership of Bathabile Dlamini was given impetus by an association of what was better defined as a Jacob Zuma constituency as we already highlighted.

We will remember how she stood accused of merely carrying the torch for Jacob Zuma by those who refused to extend her a candidacy.

Her personal choice to embrace and publicly defend the ANC resolutions of RET and Land Redistribution made her more attractive to those who believe in the view that the ANC warrants to evidence a more radical organisation.

Hence for Ramaphosa to opt for appointing Dlamini-Zuma as deputy president, may do absolutely nothing to the real and known chasms in the organisational setting. Reports of bugged phones surfacing during the campaigning process again confirmed the divisions. The secretary-general made it public that his and that of the Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte’s phones among others are bugged. By Sunday afternoon no less than three of the top six alleged their phones are bugged and they are under surveillance by intelligence apparatus.

This confirms the battle-lines are drawn and an organisation far from unity. Ramaphosa did not help the phone-bugging allegations when he dared to use his maiden interview on the former ANN7 405 Channel platform, to categorically state ‘there are no phones bugged.’ This matter of fact opinion on the part of Ramaphosa was roundly condemned firstly as irresponsible and secondly since it places him as capable of knowing if phones are bugged or not. His statement thus was challenged by Treasurer General Paul Mashatile who at the Siyanqoba rally told the media his and others phones are bugged by a multiplicity of spying agencies whom he claimed are active in SA. ANC NEC member Tony Yengeni on Twitter defiantly responded to Ramaphosa’s interview with, “How would Ramaphosa know that Ace’s phone isn’t bugged? Did Letsatsi-Duba bug Ace’s phone under his instruction? So, we put out a hit on our own SG to protect Andile Ramaphosa and Pravin Gordhan…. yah neh.”

Beyond the accepted ANC elections victory begs the question of where the power in the ANC lay. While Ramaphosa is buoyant for the white support in this elections victory, he simply cannot claim that such support is assisting or redefining the internal dynamics of a party that remains highly fractured in which the battle-lines are undeniably drawn.

He will have more than an egg dance with appointing a so-called ‘clean’ cabinet since he promised voters nobody involved in corruption and state capture will make it on to the cabinet. Ultimately his choice for cabinet members will also have to be engaged by the top six.

Right here he will have to deal with the 22 names flagged by the Integrity Commission as problematic for public office. These names include some very senior and also loyal ones to the CR17 campaign that he now if he is serious with his campaign promises must offload. Among those found, problematic is his current deputy president David Mabuza. Not excluded is the ANC chairman and Minister of Mineral Affairs Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Police Bheki Cele, Minister of Local Government Zweli Mkhize, Nomvula Mokonyane, Bathabile Dlamini deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla, Fikile Mbalula to mention a few. Let us not forget he also will have to deal with the likes of Zizi Kodwa whom he promised a cabinet post as part of the younger leaders. Kodwa is also on the flagged list of problematic names.

In a twist of events, we saw at the ANC Parys where the Secretary-General Ace Magashule delivered the keynote address banners were displayed that screamed “hands of our Secretary-General, Treasurer General, Mashatile Chairperson Mantashe”, this confirms a changing environment.  As the saying goes in politics a week is a long time.

In this highly volatile and ever-changing political space that defines the ANC, we must expect many reconfigurations since talks are taking place and dynamics are ever-changing in what is considered the ‘balance of forces. Let there also be no doubt there are desperate phone calls and meetings occurring as ANC campaigning was underway. For some these talks are purely inspired by political survival and self-interest, that in this season compels some to cross the hard-line they drew to engage others they labelled as corrupt at Luthuli House.

What is clear is that Nkosazana Dlamini–Zuma is not any significant factor that would determine ANC unity or disunity. That challenge is beyond her and is the contested space of other role players showing an internal reconfigured environment. We also can accept that whatever mileage she may have earned as supported by the pro-poor agenda is long eroded.  Beyond Nasrec she stands accused of having gone ice-cold, possibly confirming her as an individual who probably always played for herself guided by her personal ambitions. Thus, appointing her as deputy president of South Africa will have no material effect on the ANC’s internal challenges. She appears factored in as someone comfortable on the Ramaphosa side of the reconfigured balance of forces.

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
Political Commentator & Writer Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation