Thoko Didiza: Ramaphosa’s Secret Deputy Secretary General

PICTURE: ANC Eastern Cape

Over the past weekend, Deputy President Mr Cyril Ramaphosa announced his slate to lead the embattled oldest liberation movement in Africa, the African National Congress (ANC). Contrary to the ANC National General Council (NGC) resolution as adopted in 2015, which “resolved to outlaw slates and reaffirm the role of the branch as the basic unit of the ANC in electing leaders, Mr Ramaphosa announced his “winning team”. 

Mr Ramaphosa is among those running to replace the scandal ridden current ANC President, Mr Jacob Zuma. In a statement issued by the ANC Secretary-General, Mr Gwede Mantashe – who is also in Mr Ramaphosa’s slate – has come out strongly condemning such behaviour. Mr Ramaphosa has since ceded to his faults.

On Monday, the presidential hopeful issued a statement admitting to his mistakes by pronouncing the slate. Mr Ramaphosa said he has “noted various views that have been expressed about comments I made at a rally in Sekhukhune…..on potential candidates for the ANC leadership.”

He further went on to say, he “views” these criticism “in a positive light as a process of enriching and deepening our internal democratic processes and promotion of unity in the ANC.”

The leading contender also said, “[t]he names I mentioned for leadership positions arose from interactions and nominations emerging from ANC structures and should be understood in that context.”

Mr Ramaphosa’s comments angered many – including his backers. The ANC and its youthful structures have since condemned his comments.

According to an Independent Political Analyst, Mr Molifi Tshabalala; “ANC and South [Africa’s] Deputy President, [Mr] Ramaphosa has imposed his slate to the ANC branches, especially those that support his course for ANC president.”

“This shows a leader who does not respect his party’s internal democratic processes. It is not surprising, though. [Mr] Zuma did the same after the ANC NEC, a highest decision-making body between the conferences, had ordered party members to desist from engaging on succession debate until the party had officially opened the nomination process,” Mr Tshabalala said.

“He went against order, anointing his former wife, [Dr] Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as his successor. As if that were not enough, Zuma flew to Eastern Cape to congratulate the ever so incorrigible [Mr] Andile Lungisa, who had stood for regional chairmanship while [Mr] Mantashe was at pains to remind him that he could not vie for the position as Member of Provincial Legislature,” added Mr Tshabalala

The Winning Team

Mr Ramaphosa, if he wins, has vow to restore the party’s credibility and root the entrenched corruption within the party which has swell to reach a boiling point. The candidates he picked during his address at his home province, in the northern part of South Africa – include Minister of Science and Technology Ms Naledi Pandor, former KwaZulu-Natal premier Mr Senzo Mchunu, Mr Mantashe, and ANC Gauteng’s chairman Mr Paul Mashatile. This team as Mr Ramaphosa claimed, is the ‘winning team’ that will root out corruption. 

However, Mr Tshabalala disagrees with Mr Ramaphosa.

“Regarding the question as to whether Ramaphosa’s so-called ‘winning team’ would bring the difference, it would not,” he said.

“It would take more than a change of leadership for the ANC to come right. Yes, a new broom sweeps the house clean, but in case of the ANC, the house itself needs a serious reforms, from how it elects leaders to how deploys leaders to government,” Mr Tshabalala said.

While his supporters waited in agony for the last candidate – the deputy secretary-general, Mr Ramaphosa continue nominating leaders of the ANC NEC instead. The candidate that Mr Ramaphosa left out, will surprise many including supporters of his competitor, Dr Dlamini-Zuma.

Speculations have increased since his address, with many suggesting that former minister and mayoral candidate of South Africa’s capital city – Tshwane – Ms Thoko Didiza, is the secret candidate.

A branch in KZN appeared to have included Ms Didiza in Mr Ramaphosa’s slate. According to our source – who is familiar with the negotiations in Mr Ramaphosa’s team, “there are many candidates that have been sought after Ms Febe Portgier-Gqubule and Ms Lindiwe Sisulu refused to be part of the slate.”

The inclusion of Ms Pandor comes after series of secret meetings which were held with Ms Sisulu in a bid to bring her in to their slate. But she has since refused to be a deputy, instead she is reportedly to have said, “Tell Cyril to come and deputised me.” A proposal, Mr Ramaphosa refused to entertain.

According Mr Tshabalala, Mr Ramaphosa call to have Ms Pandor on his slate was not a wise decision. 

“It was not a wise decision from Ramaphosa,” he said.

“[Ms] Pandor commands a great deal of respect and admiration within the ANC, the Tripartite Alliance, and the public at large. However, both respect and admiration do not necessarily translate themselves into a potent constituency within the organisation.

“To win the Conference, [Mr] Ramaphosa would require people who command a sizeable constituency. [Ms] Pandor does not have a sizeable constituency within the ANC,” he added.

It is also believed that Mr Ramaphosa choose Ms Pandor after communications with Mpumalanga ANC chair, Mr David Mabuza had broken down. However, Mr Tshabalala is of the view that Mr Ramaphosa should have persuaded Mr Mabuza. 

“He should have gone for [Mr] Mabuza, who commands a huge constituency. With a united Mpumalanga and Gauteng, [Mr] Ramaphosa would be assured victory. As a deputy president, [Mr] Mabuza would not pose a serious challenge. Look at himself, he does not pose immediate challenge to [Mr] Zuma. It would have been easy to manage [Mr] Mabuza as deputy.

Attempts to get a comment from Ms Didiza were unsuccessful. 

The ANC 54th elective conference will take place next month in Gauteng.