Pandor nod brings Sisulu back to the table with Ramaphosa

Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
Lindiwe Sisulu. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images / Lauren Mulligan

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's endorsement of Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor as his running mate has brought Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu back to the negotiating table.

The Sunday Times understands that lobbyists for Ramaphosa and Sisulu met in Johannesburg this week to discuss the possibility of her accepting nomination as second-in-command, in return throwing her weight behind Ramaphosa for ANC president.

It has also emerged that presidential hopefuls Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize met last week. Insiders said Dlamini-Zuma's lobbyists are not willing to negotiate as she was happy with her slate, which has Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza as her deputy.

Insiders in Ramaphosa's camp said although his endorsement of Pandor was a "public blunder", it had brought Sisulu back to the negotiating table.

"We told her people that there is no royalty in the ANC. No one deserves a position. We are happy that CR publicly endorsed Naledi because now we know where everyone stands," a source said.

The decision to remove Sisulu from Ramaphosa's slate was taken at a meeting of the "political committee" last Friday after she publicly attacked ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and told the media she did not need Ramaphosa to be elected to the ANC top six.

However, some ANC branches that support Ramaphosa have continued to nominate Sisulu as his deputy.

'Not what we entered the race for'

Sisulu told the Sunday Times this week that she would accept any position at the December conference.

Asked if she was willing to serve as Ramaphosa's deputy, she said: "If that is the will of the branches, then who am I to say no, but at the moment I am running my own campaign."

We told her people that there is no royalty in the ANC. No one deserves a position.

She conceded that although she was campaigning for the top job, most of the branches that supported Ramaphosa had nominated her as his deputy. "We have been finding ourselves nominated in various positions across various provinces ... but the predominant position, which seems to have had more nominations than the presidential one, is that of deputy president, but that is not what we entered the race for."

ANC leaders close to Ramaphosa said Pandor had been his first choice as deputy ever since he agreed to campaign to be the next ANC president.

In March, Pandor told the Sunday Times that she refused to be part of those lobbying her for any top position until ANC branches raised her name through party structures.

She said at the time she once stormed out of a dinner event that was a lobbying caucus aimed at nudging her to take up a political campaign, saying that it would have to be the decision of the branches.

This week she declined to comment.

The Sunday Times has learnt that the Ramaphosa "political committee" met again on Friday in an attempt to finalise who would serve as deputy secretary-general in his top six. This comes after the position was turned down by Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, an SABC board member and former adviser to Dlamini-Zuma.

A senior leader who runs Ramaphosa's campaign within the CR17 team said the name of senior ANC MP Thoko Didiza had also been considered but the final decision was to aim to get younger leaders into the higher echelons of the party.

"The view is that the top six must have some element of youth. As to who the person should be, that has not been concluded," said one of the CR17 campaign managers. - Additional reporting by Thabo Mokone