Axed deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas may have entered the leadership race for control of the ANC in the Eastern Cape.
The Sunday Times has established that Jonas’s name is being bandied about by party structures that are searching for a provincial chairman to replace Phumulo Masualle.
Should Jonas’s campaign gain momentum, he is expected to compete against Masualle and provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane, who is also said to be eyeing the post.
An ANC provincial executive committee member confirmed that some party structures wanted Jonas. “He possesses good leadership skills. No one can take that away from him. Comrades want him to contest. However, some of us are worried that it might be a bit too late for his campaign to take off, but we will see as things go,” the member said.
Another party leader said that although he was aware of the campaign to have Jonas elected, his lobbyists were too late. “I hate to admit it, but Oscar is miles ahead. But it would be good if he [Jonas] could be accommodated because that is a brilliant political brain,” said the leader.
Jonas was not available for comment at the time of going to press. But sources close to him said any such campaign did not have his blessing.
The Eastern Cape elective conference is expected to be held in July, five months before the ANC elects a successor to President Jacob Zuma.
Although the ANC in the Eastern Cape may appear divided, it is likely that after some horse-trading a compromise could be reached aimed at uniting the province going into the December national elective conference. The province is ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s stronghold and is expected to push for him to be elected to the deputy president post.
Jonas’s name surfaced days after he and fellow former ministers Ngoako Ramatlhodi and Dipuo Peters resigned from parliament as ANC MPs.
It would not be the first time Jonas has sought the position. In 2009 he lost to Masualle in a hotly contested election in East London.
Masualle declined a request by the Sunday Times for an interview after his office asked the newspaper to send questions to him on a range of issues including the succession.
Last month the newly appointed ANC Youth League provincial task team announced that Masualle should remain the party’s chairman after the elective conference in July.
However, the Sunday Times has learnt that the task team is now concerned about its preferred candidate. An ANCYL former provincial executive committee member said the task team was stuck between a rock and a hard place as their candidate was showing signs of “rebellion against Zuma”.
This was a reference to a remark Masualle made at a Chris Hani memorial lecture, that leaders who had lost the confidence of the public should step down. The Sunday Times’s sister publication, the Daily Dispatch, quoted Masualle as saying leaders should serve the people selflessly without personal benefit.