ANC provincial chairperson David Mabuza is playing “a dangerous game” and has created a trust deficit between himself and the leading contenders for the ANC presidency.
Those close to presidential contenders Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa accused Mabuza of positioning himself to be the “unity” fallback candidate for the leadership of the organisation.
Anger flared in the campaign circles of both front-runners over what is being labelled as Mabuza hiding behind the unity card to further his own ambitions as a potential president of the ruling party.
This came in the wake of the Mpumalanga provincial general council (PGC) last Friday which saw both contenders failing to obtain a majority endorsement. A source described Mabuza’s lack of endorsement of any candidate as a “Harry Gwala moment”. At the ANC’s first national conference in 1991, the late Walter Sisulu was a unanimous choice for the position of national chairperson. However, at the last minute then KZN leader Harry Gwala announced his availability for the position and threw the conference into disarray.
When questioned about his decision to stand against Sisulu, Gwala said: “I stood to reassert the principle that there should be competitive elections for leadership positions.” A source said Mabuza’s posturing “is not about unity but rather to cause confusion among delegates in order to secure his own election to the top position”. Another source familiar with Dlamini Zuma’s campaign said: “Mabuza is playing a dangerous game which will backfire. He has been hedging his bets. Talk of him being a kingmaker has emboldened him to the point where he believes his own propaganda. “His posturing has angered many people. Going forward he cannot be trusted.”
Another source in the Dlamini Zuma campaign has confirmed that there is talk of Mabuza being removed from her slate and replaced by another presidential hopeful, Zweli Mkhize. “Far from being a unifying factor, comrade DD is disingenuous regarding his own intentions. He is using unity as a false flag to pursue his own presidential ambitions,” the source said. “His abuse of the PGC nomination process for his own benefit is not surprising. For a while now he has been hedging his bets and has failed to endorse any candidate for the president’s post. The developments at the PGC merely confirms this.
“We are confident that comrade Nkosazana will get the support of those delegates who abstained from nominating a candidate.” Dlamini Zuma’s campaign spokesperson Vukani Mthintso said that discussions with Mabuza “are ongoing and it will not be prudent to comment further.”
Sources close to Ramaphosa’s campaign told The New Age that a huge trust deficit was developing between Mabuza and themselves and questioned his role as a kingmaker. “As we get closer to the conference, the numbers are beginning to stack up in favour of the deputy president. Mabzua is aware of this and is hoping to use the Mpumalanga votes as his get out of jail card and secure the deputy president’s post,” a source said. “We will not be fooled by his unity talk. It is therefore strange to hear him talk about unity.” When contacted for comment, Ramaphosa’s campaign spokesperson Bejani Chauke said “he was in a meeting and unable to comment.”
The majority of ANC branches in Mpumalanga nominated “unity” for the top six ANC positions. For ANC president‚ 223 branches nominated “unity” while Dlamini Zuma got 123 formal votes‚ ahead of Cyril Ramaphosa’s 117 votes. In a move which some consider may be grossly compromising for Mbuza, the province decided to vote for an unknown candidate called “unity”.
Mabuza insisted this move was an appreciation of unity in the party but may lose him favour with Dlamini Zuma because although she is nominated for president, it was a thin win above her contender Ramaphosa. “I am willing to sacrifice myself for the sake of unity‚” Mabuza said.
Political analyst Prof Sipho Seepe said: “This notion of unity was manufactured. It appears that the premier is playing games and wants to be a kingmaker. That is a dangerous place for him to be in because the Ramaphosa team doesn’t want him and the Dlamini Zuma slate could have been his only hope at being a deputy.”