As ANC intrigue rages on, the security of tenure that Ramaphosa desperately needs remains elusive

26 May 2019 - 00:06

Is there anything more exhausting than the internal politics of the ANC? Just when everyone was settling into a post-election hiatus, looking ahead to the establishment of a streamlined new government, a fresh commotion erupted in the party.
On Monday, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule announced the new presiding officers in parliament and revealed that Nomvula Mokonyane would take up the influential position of "chair of chairs" in the National Assembly.
Mokonyane has been doubly shamed with a truly awful track record as a minister and is facing serious allegations of corruption and bribery stemming from testimony at the Zondo commission.
Whatever criteria the ANC used to select her for this senior parliamentary position are as inexplicable as black DA members trying to justify racist sentiments oozing from some of their white colleagues.
On Tuesday, the ANC announced that former minister Malusi Gigaba and the former speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, had withdrawn from its list of MPs. On Wednesday morning, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Deputy President David Mabuza had requested that his swearing-in as an MP be "postponed". This was because of a report by the ANC integrity commission naming him and 21 others as people who could prejudice the party due to allegations of wrongdoing against them.
Minutes later, it was confirmed that Mokonyane would not be sworn in "due to family responsibilities".
"The ANC will accordingly reassign Comrade Nomvula to its headquarters at Luthuli House," a statement advised.
It is unclear whether anyone in the ANC knew what was going on as the party's new chief whip, Pemmy Majodina, had said Mokonyane would be sworn in after a period of mourning for her husband.
Meanwhile, some of ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile's allies were lobbying for him to be sworn in as an MP so he could be in line for a ministerial post. One of the arguments they advanced was that it would be better for the ANC's finances if Mashatile was located in the cabinet rather than have to hustle donors from Luthuli House.
Amid the disarray, there was speculation about whether Mabuza had been shafted by Ramaphosa or whether this was a power play on his part. There was a buzz about who could be appointed deputy president instead.
Nobody in the ANC could explain whether Mabuza was planning to sit out the whole government term, or whether he would be sworn in immediately after meeting with the integrity commission.
Ramaphosa's statement did not state that Mabuza wanted to clear his name of corruption, but rather that "he would like to have an opportunity to address the integrity commission on these allegations".
Some commentators claimed Mabuza wanted to position himself as a victim of Ramaphosa's clean-up drive and was plotting to mount a challenge against the president from outside the government.
Considering how Mabuza manoeuvred to get to the second-highest position in the state, it seems illogical for him to simply go away quietly. There are also serious business interests behind Mabuza, so it is unlikely that they would happily write off their substantial investment in his political career.
The understanding between Ramaphosa and Mabuza remained an enigma, as did the implications for the appointment of the new executive.
After he was elected as the ANC's deputy leader in December 2017, there were worries that Mabuza would work to topple Ramaphosa and take over his position. But since Ramaphosa appointed him as his deputy last year, Mabuza, by all accounts, has become a great ally of the president.
Ministers say Mabuza is extremely supportive and backs Ramaphosa's agenda wholeheartedly. Whether in the cabinet or in the ANC, Mabuza has apparently not made a single duplicitous move that would cause Ramaphosa to doubt his loyalty.
Nobody knows what game Mabuza is playing, but it seems safer for Ramaphosa to keep him as an ally. Ramaphosa does not have political heavyweights in his inner circle who can detect dangers and fend them off. He should have strong surrogates in the ANC to counteract the opposing faction so that he can focus on the state.
But people who were Ramaphosa's eyes and ears at Luthuli House, such as Zizi Kodwa, Senzo Mchunu and Fikile Mbalula, have all become MPs and are lined up for cabinet posts.
Magashule has been left to his own devices at the ANC headquarters, now with Mokonyane and possibly Gigaba helping him to consolidate his base.
While most South Africans have had quite enough of the ANC's shenanigans and want attention focused on the business of governing the country, there is no let-up in the power battles in the party. The events of the past week showed that the situation in the ANC remains fluid, hazardous and unpredictable.
If Ramaphosa is to fulfil all the undertakings he made to the country after taking the presidential oath yesterday, he must survive politically.
As things stand, Ramaphosa cannot tell who in the ANC is behind him and how many of them are holding daggers.

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