ANC’s façade of unity could backfire on Ramaphosa

Supra Mahumapelo, left, is seen at a press conference at Luthuli House, 23 May 2018, where he announced that he would be going on early retirement, thus leaving his post as premier of the North West Province. With him is ANC secretary general Ace Magashule. Picture: Michel Bega

Supra Mahumapelo, left, is seen at a press conference at Luthuli House, 23 May 2018, where he announced that he would be going on early retirement, thus leaving his post as premier of the North West Province. With him is ANC secretary general Ace Magashule. Picture: Michel Bega

Ramaphorites still suffer in the margins of the party in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and North West while their opponents bask in the glory of false unity.

Only an ignorant person won’t know the unity of the ANC has improved here and there since Nasrec, but the false façade of this “unity” is haunting.

Unity was only heard from the mouths of the party big guns at Luthuli House but not from the ground in especially North West.

The province remained tense since Luthuli House first disbanded it and then the reinstatement of the ANC provincial executive committee (PEC), led by Supra Mahumapelo, by the court.

Supra and his PEC are unpredictable: they believe they are the legitimate leadership in that province, despite being rejected by the grassroots people. The ANC top brass had been forced into a compromise to please Supra, the erstwhile supremo of North West politics. This is the man whom at the pointing of his finger made things happen during his reign.

The Free State PEC is forging ahead, despite not being recognised by a sizeable section of that province’s ANC membership. The opponents have an ongoing court case, challenging the provincial leadership’s legitimacy.

The disgruntled Free State members were not making impossible demands. They just want justice and for the game to be played according to the rules. They merely want to be included in the provincial task team, instead of it comprising predominantly of members from the former PEC, formerly led by Ace Magashule. The group has resorted to courts as a way to get justice.

Both North West and Free State are typical examples of what happens when the centre does not hold. Under the guise of nursing unity of the party but a leadership weakness, Cyril Ramaphosa allowed Mahumapelo to dictate terms about North West. The PEC, in spite of the high court ruling that it must be reinstated, had its term of office expired last month. So what is the justification for their continued existence?

With Mahumapelo around, premier Job Mokgoro can’t run the province without having to look over his shoulder. Supra is influential with a strong section of his former PEC firmly behind him. The PEC is prepared to rock the boat should things go against them and they see Mokgoro not only as Ramaphosa’s man, but as a stumbling block to regaining power. This battle would continue, especially after the court victory.

Ramaphosa hoped the problem would solve itself. But Supra’s followers would not stop until their hero is returned to power. The man known as “Black Jesus” would rather be crucified than give up a fight, and he always wins his duels.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the leadership of the province is mainly in favour of unity, but some in the province still feel emotionally attached to Jacob Zuma, especially the eThekwini region led by Zandile Gumede, a Zuma diehard. Those, like chairperson Sihle Zikalala, who believes that unity is the best way, are crying for support from Luthuli House, that remains divided.

Those who supported Ramaphosa prior to Nasrec have become orphans. Although they fought for him to rise to power, he had abandoned them as he pursues unity at all cost – a dangerous move because he might not find them when he needs them later. The Ramaphorites still suffer in the margins of the party in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and North West while their opponents bask in the glory of the false unity.

Ramaphosa is playing with fire: when the “second Nasrec” comes in 2022, and he is still in power, he will regret his wrong move.

Eric Naki

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