With Mpumalanga almost done with preparations for the upcoming elective ANC national conference, nobody outside the region yet knows who the kingmaker province is going to choose between Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa as the next ANC president.
The man at the centre, Premier David Mabuza, is yet to pronounce publicly which of the two he favours. After Ramaphosa’s unpopular announcement of the list of his preferred potential office bearers, Mabuza was reported to be looking at supporting Dlamini-Zuma, but that wasn’t a certainty.
Indications were he might well choose Dlamini-Zuma, who has listed him as her deputy. In contrast, the Ramaphosa camp has completely snubbed Mabuza on its latest list, which had Naledi Pandor as deputy.
The Mpumalanga leader is still holding the cards close to his chest. At the weekend, he even stayed away from the election campaign meetings of the two candidates in the province … to avoid being seen as siding. Mabuza, who is premier as well as ANC provincial chairperson, appeared to enjoy the attention he is getting as a kingmaker.
Although he had been Jacob Zuma’s trusted ally, Mabuza recently decided to opt for unity and to avoid factional “slate” politics.
He tried to coopt the leaderships of Gauteng, Free State, North West and KwaZulu-Natal for this idea but failed, as Gauteng backed Ramaphosa and other three provinces, Dlamini-Zuma.
According to a Mpumalanga-based observer, Mabuza would keep the suspense as long as possible. “That’s typical of Mabuza, he enjoys this limelight. He won’t indicate who he prefers, but would choose a side at the last moment. That’s exactly what he did in Polokwane,” he said.
The observer said in the runup to the ANC conference held at the University of Limpopo in 2007, Mabuza had supported Thabo Mbeki against Jacob Zuma for the leadership of the ANC, but changed his mind when he realised that Zuma was bound to win.