Cyril Ramaphosa clings to power in a tight race against Zweli Mkhize

Newly elected ANC top 7 officials from left: Second deputy secretary, Maropene Ramakgopa, first deputy secretary Nomvula Mokonyane, secretary-general Fikile Mbalula, national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, president Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president Paul Mashatile and treasurer-general Gwen Ramokgopa. | Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Newly elected ANC top 7 officials from left: Second deputy secretary, Maropene Ramakgopa, first deputy secretary Nomvula Mokonyane, secretary-general Fikile Mbalula, national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, president Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president Paul Mashatile and treasurer-general Gwen Ramokgopa. | Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 20, 2022


Durban — President Cyril Ramaphosa has managed to cling to power against all odds at the ANC’s national conference in Nasrec.

The president defeated his arch-rival Dr Zweli Mkhize in a highly contested ANC presidential race on Monday.

While the president won, his victory came after allegations of vote rigging and vote buying, with delegates claiming that attempts to woo them were made by people in Ramaphosa’s camp.

With Mkhize edging ahead earlier on Monday due to announcements of backing from provinces that had previously aligned with Ramaphosa, the president’s win, although by a slight margin, came as a shock to many pundits.

According to insiders, his win could be attributed to his last-minute horse-trading between his running mates who were contesting each other.

Political analyst Ongama Mtimka said Ramaphosa’s win also proved that it was the branches not provincial leaders who have power, referring to provinces like North West, Gauteng and Limpopo which, despite branches endorsing Ramaphosa, announced on the eve of the voting that their provinces had switched to Mkhize.

“These provinces, including KwaZulu-Natal, were humbled by their own branches. The provincial elites thought that they were in control of branches but they were humbled,” said Mtimka.

He said Ramaphosa’s win meant the anti-corruption project he had started would continue.

Re-elected ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa and Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

His win has also meant that the Phala Phala saga did not do much damage to his reputation within the party as delegates backed him, despite rivals using the debacle against him. The outcome also meant KZN again would not be represented in the top seven, for the second time since 2017.

However, it was a less tight race than what was expected given the nominations made by branches. Ramaphosa defeated Mkhize by 585 votes, garnering 2 476 against Mkhize’s1 897.

His win also meant the branches had maintained their initial nominations where the president had scored 2 037 against Mkhize’s 916 before the conference.

Reacting to the results, one of the president’s strong men in KZN, former Public Works and Human Settlements MEC Jomo Sibiya, said they were excited that the president won, adding that his win meant that the renewal project of the ANC would be realised.

This was echoed by another chief campaigner of the president, Minister in the presidency, Mondli Gungubele, who said the leadership collective that emerged would ensure the renewal of the party, adding that he was praying for the national executive committee that would assist the top 7 in renewing the ANC.

In the deputy president position, Paul Mashatile defeated the Eastern Cape’s Oscar Mabuyane and Mpumalanga’s Ronald Lamola.

For the secretary-general position, Fikile Mbalula won, defeating Mdumiseni Ntuli and Phumulo Masualle, while Gwede Mantashe retained his national chairperson position, beating Stan Mathabatha and David Masondo.

In the first deputy secretary-general position, Nomvula Mokonyane beat Tina Joemat-Pettersson, while the newly established second deputy secretary-general position went to national Women’s League Task Team co-ordinator Maropene Ramakgopa from Limpopo.

The top seven was completed by Gwen Ramakgopa as the first ever woman treasurer-general in the history of the ANC.

Re-elected ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

KZN ANC spokesperson Mafika Mndebele said the province accepted the outcome which was a democratic process. On where things went wrong after three provinces switched to Mkhize on the eve of voting, he said they respected how delegates voted privately.

Former ANC provincial spokesperson and current provincial executive committee member Nhlakanipho Ntombela urged the party to accept the outcome, saying although the province had taken a decision to back Mkhize, they were bound to accept that Ramaphosa has won.

However, Mkhize put up a good fight, taking his campaign across the country which saw him garnering votes from the delegates in the provinces that had endorsed Ramaphosa and not only in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, which had emphatically endorsed him for the position.

With KZN fully behind him with more than 800 votes coupled with half from the Eastern Cape and Gauteng plus sizeable numbers from Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West, Mkhize was tipped to win the presidential race but it was not to be. Political analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu from UWC said whoever emerged victorious would have his work cut out as he would have to try to mend fences and reconcile all factions in a divided house.

Divisions in the party have been glaring at the conference with different groups pushing for their preferred candidates.

Mngomezulu said it would be tough to foster unity and the new leader would have to work hard to ensure the party was united in the build-up to the next elections in 2024.

“It is not going to be easy at all because these divisions are deeply entrenched as they start from the National Working Committee, the National Executive Committee, the Provincial Executive Committees, the regions and branches.

“This is going to affect the party because what happens next is a build up to 2024 and there is not enough time for the ANC to regroup,” said Mngomezulu.

Re-elected ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa with newly elected chairperson Gwede Mantashe and Newly elected Paul Mashatile. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

In addition, the new party leadership, under Ramaphosa, will have to address the governing party’s dwindling membership which has plummeted in at least eight provinces by more than 300 000.

In the party’s report, which was tabled in the closed session, only the Western Cape ANC managed to increase its membership, by a mere 6 000 more members.

This is likely to cause the new leadership more woes as the party has long lost control of the province, which has been in the hands of the DA.

The membership exceeded the one million target in 2012 when it registered 1 220 057. The report shows that Mpumalanga lost more than 100 000 members in the past five years.

Among the stumbling blocks for the party’s growth are the “remnants” of the culture of gate-keeping and attempts at manipulation of the ANC processes.

Most of these disturbing features include the resistance of some members to discard old practices that the system was built to eradicate.

The report noted that some of the branch secretaries were unilaterally refusing to process membership applications and/or abuse of some of the powers conferred on them as administrators of the system.

The report also said many branches were struggling to form a quorum when convening their meetings.

“Some use the tactics to by-pass or work against the system by employing all sorts of tricks to convene meetings in contravention of the guidelines and constitution of the ANC.

“This is not so much about the system but rather a sub-culture that the ANC will definitely have to deal with in order to transform such behaviour.”

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