BY DAVID SHONGA
SOUTH African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s future as African National Congress (ANC) leader is uncertain ahead of the ruling party’s December elective congress where he is likely to face a challenge from a dark horse.
Ramaphosa’s presidency has come under serious scrutiny in recent months after ANC’s dismal performance in last year’s local government elections and the poor performance of the economy.
Some ANC structures are said to be coalescing around former Cabinet minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi to challenge the 69 year-old president at the forthcoming congress.
Ramaphosa became South Africa’s president in February 2018 after former leader Jacob Zuma resigned, facing a flurry of corruption allegations.
He was the only candidate nominated by parliament which was dominated by the ANC.
Ramaphosa’s rule has been characterised by problems that saw the country recording the highest youth unemployment since the attainment of independence in 1994.
His critics say his leadership serves the interest of big capital and has pushed policies that marginalise the majority black population.
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They point to the dwindling support for the ANC, which is losing ground to newly formed opposition parties and this has fuelled speculation about a serious challenge to Ramaphosa’s leadership at the December congress.
Ramatlhodi, a veteran of the ANC having served in government since 1994, is said to be building significant support riding on the popular sentiment for leadership renewal.
He is said to be advocating for two centres of power in the South Africa where the ruling party leader will not be State president to allow for checks and balances.
Ramatlhodi’s approach is said to be getting traction in the ANC where many feel government ministers, who also have party positions are accused of being drunk with power and are abusing State resources.
The former Limpopo premier for 10 years is said to enjoy the backing of senior ANC stalwarts and he recently released a statement, which observers said was a confirmation of his interest to wrestle the leadership of the ANC from Ramaphosa.
“Following years of slow and consistent decline of electoral support for the ANC, 27 years post freedom, we are most certainly at the tipping point, with prospects of the ANC losing the 2024 national elections,” Ramatlhodi said in the statement.
“The 2021 local government elections results being the latest and worst example of a downward spiral, in this regard.
“Twenty-seven years later we remain the most unequal society in the world, with the black majority continuing to languish at the bottom of the economic ladder.
“This is the result of a partial democratization of the state without the corresponding democratization of the apartheid production relations.”
Ramatlhodi has strong ties with Zimbabwe after working as head of the ANC regional political and military council in the country from 1986 to 1988 where he also obtained a Master of Science (MSc) n degree in international relations from the University of Zimbabwe.
He has served in the ANC in various capacities as a member of the national executive, the late former president Oliver Tambo’s political secretary and speechwriter, among other posts.
Ramatlhodi said ANC got it wrong when it failed to break the white minority population’s control of the economy.
He said apartheid forces succeeded in retaining white domination under a black government by emptying the legislature and the executive of real political power while vesting it in the judiciary, a system past successive leaders of the country failed to break.
Speaking about the two centres of power, Ramatlhodi said: “The perspective that won the day in the past was that in order to have cohesion in all matters political and administrative the president of the ANC had to be the president of the Republic, the chairperson of the province had to be the premier and so it cascades down.
“Experience of the past 27 years has exposed the weakness of this system in that it gave too much power to individuals, who became too big for the organisation.
“We have witnessed with horror and dismay the ugly consequences of the concentration of power in individuals with very little internal accountability.”
He added: “In time, it has become clear that the separation of the position of the president of the ANC from the president of the country, is something we should give serious thought to.
“The system, without internal checks and balances such as we have, has proven to be a total failure in terms of delivering on the goals of the national democratic revolution.
“The country needs a strong ANC able to rein in its members from doing as they wish in positions of leadership.
“In order to build such a strong ANC we need a strong team of full timers at the heard quarters, led by the resident, and the secretary general.”
He said the job to reconstruct the ANC into a liberation movement and undo the damage needed a new approach.
“We need a new way, which is a movement away from the reformed and corrupt ANC, as represented by many of its leaders, who fell prey to poisonous venom injected by the ugly tentacles of the socio-economic relations of colonialism of a special type that remains strong and robust,” Ramatlhodi said.
“We cannot renew the ANC in its current form.
“We must reconstruct it, to restore it to a true liberation movement in power.”
Ramaphosa, after sensing the threat in Ramatlhodi’s call for two centres of power, is reportedly persuading his deputy, David Mabuza, to contest for the presidency of the party to protect his position.
The South African president is facing pressure from all fronts and this week, the biggest labour organisation, Cosatu, accused him of betraying the workers by refusing to endorse their application to enforce the 2018 wage agreement.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki admitted the country was in deep crisis and called for auditing of structures and members to focus on service delivery than positions in the party.
He said the ANC was moving towards its slow, but painful death.
Some of the problems cited by the faction challenging Ramaphosa are that there are manpower shortages at Luthuli House, the ANC headquarters, as most of the elected leadership of the party are occupied with government duties.
There is no secretary general at the moment, the ANC treasurer general is acting secretary general because deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte is on sick leave
“There is serious confusion in ANC at the moment as some are saying deputy president David Mabuza, asked the ANC leadership to be placed at Luthuli House to assist the secretary general’s office. The request was dismissed by Ramaphosa and his allies,” in insider said.
“There are serious factional fights in the women’s league, which prompted the ANC working committee to propose disbanding of Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga Woman’s leagues and replace them with interim committees.
“ANC head of organising, Nomvula Mokonyane who is tasked with overseeing structures at the governing party’s conference, is understood to have submitted a report on provinces readiness to elect new leaders.”
The ANC’s national working committee is said to have also taken a decision to disband the Earstern Cape and Mpumalanga provincial executives (PECs).
According to the source, the PECs will be replaced by task teams, which will be loaded with Ramaphosa’s supporters.
The source said this was being done to prevent the direction in which leaders in the two provinces were moving as this was seen as being averse to Ramaphosa.
“Most ANC members are not happy because of continuous postponement of election in all provinces. Some are not happy with those imposed interim committees,” the source added.
“The youth league is also run by an interim executive led by Nonceba Mhlauli, who is also accused of failing to put ANCYL branches in order across the country.”
Delivering a Peter Mokaba memorial lecture in Limpopo, described recent ANC youth League calls for renewal as an embarrassment.
“The youth must never go back to a situation that it has been in over the past years, it has been an embarrassment,” he said.
Analysts attribute the instability in the party rocking the youth and women’s league to poor management.
“There must be a strong administration in the party to keep the party structure intact and also have a very active recruitment drive targeting first time voters to increase its membership,” the insider said.
One of the ANC NEC who requested to be anonymous said of all those who were interested to contest against Ramaphosa, Ramatlhodi was a well-respected in the ANC structures because of his rich history in the party.
He was a commander for military command for Northern Transvaal during the struggle and was secretary and speech writer for Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo.
“He was secretary to Tambo and was very close to Nelson Mandela.
“He stayed in foreign countries like Zimbabwe and Zambia for long time.
“He understands regional and international politics,” the senior official said.
“Most comrades feel that he is the best candidate for the post.
“His decision to run only for party president is being received with much joy by the party cadres, who feel that after elections the top six of the party ignores party duties and concentrate on government as it is the case today
“The party needs a leader who can unite factions of the ANC,”
He added: “If it is true that Cde Ramathodi wants to contest this December that will be good news to most ANC cadres.
“He is corruption free, a known veteran of the struggle and champion of black empowerment.
“The party needs a cadre who can deliver land to the people of South Africa and who is able to work with other political parties in the country.
“Rumours that he is pushing for a women national president to lead the government it’s an icing on the cake on his campaign.”
On Lindiwe Sisulu as potential challenger, the official said the Tourism minister needed to have support from her home province first so that she can get a strong launch pad.
She may also face serious resistance from Gwede Mantashe, who also comes from the same province,” the official said.
“We don’t know what he wants yet.
Some say he wants to be deputy president.
“Some people are advising her to take up the party chairperson position to increase the number of women in the top six.
Sisulu is also pushing for a female to take over ANC and government leadership.
She was a member of parliament since 1994 and was appointed to different ministries.
Sisulu, last year challenged Ramaphosa after he announced that she had agreed to apologise for allegedly insulting South African judges.
Her stance was described as unprecedented defiance by a cabinet minister.