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ANC Conference: The Lobbyists

Spotlight Africa will be providing commentary during the ANC elective conference with updates and analysis before, during and after the event. In the first part of this series, Mphuthumi Ntabeni takes a look at the lobbyists of the two campaigns – NDZ17 (Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) and CR17 (Cyril Ramaphosa) and the question of unity. 

The days before the start of political conferences are usually critical. This is the time delegates arrive at the conference venue, and the lobbyists scouts are up and about to ‘welcome’ them. The welcoming is, of course, a euphemism for bribes. Their leaders are dined out on expensive restaurants and provided expensive food and drink, cell phones with unlimited airtime and other gifts. The exchange of money bags happens at this moment. The practice is not uncommon. The provincial SACP leader in Mpumalanga, Lucky Mbuyani, was reported to have said that some ANC delegates in Mpumalanga have received what is termed “pocket money” as a measure of assuring that they are not vulnerable to taking bribes ahead of the elective conference this weekend.

The minister of police, Fikile Mbalula – who has made it clear that he is gunning for NDZ17 – hit social media on Tuesday announcing that the police intelligence had intercepted a R2.5 million intended to buy votes. When he was called out for using an old picture he replied: “The issue here is not origin of the image (which is from 2016) but the content of the Tweet”.

Why he didn’t use the real images of the incident is anyone’s guess. Like most Twitter users I too smelt a rat on the minister’s Tweet. The low spirits by which the last provincial council (Free State) was carried by made it is clear that the NDZ17 group are seeing the writing on the wall and are becoming desperate.

There’ll be three groups of lobbyists in the Nasrec precinct: CR17, NDZ17 and the so-called Unity group. The unity group wants to mix the leadership slates regardless of who wins the presidential position. For instance, they want  the person with second highest votes to automatically become the deputy president. Organisation wise, this makes sense and would probably prevent a Cope/EFF post-elective conference split. The problem is that this notion of unity is driven by president Zuma and his lieutenants from the Premier League (North West, Free State and Mpumalanga) group. In addition, the proposal comes late in the campaign, as if it is prompted by the realisation that they don’t have the numbers. Naturally the CR17 group does not trust the unity group and their proposals. They see in it a ruse to dilute the next National Executive Committee so as to make sure there’s not a clean break in the next leadership from the current one. Zuma, as usual, is probably just looking after number one. You must remember the decision to recall the president of the country, as was with Mbeki, must come from the NEC according to the ANC tradition. So the unity group call is about making sure NDZ17 group still holds a balance of power within the NEC even if they lose the elections.

The country will probably be better off economically and otherwise were we to make a clean break with the Zuma administration. Not only will it give Ramaphosa proper authority to govern, it would provide his administration space to drain the swamp, to use Trump’s term. The corruption within the Premier League provinces and national government departments alone requires this if we are to make inroads towards restoring our national dignity and pride. SA.


* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.



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Mphuthumi Ntabeni
Mphuthumi Ntabeni lives in Cape Town where he is a political commentator and writer. He writers for the Southern Cross and his book, The Broken River Tent is published by Black Back Book, an imprint of Jacana Books, in early 2018.

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