Will Motlanthe get the chop?
Will ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe stay on as the country’s second in command after a bruising showdown with ANC president Jacob Zuma?
Motlanthe’s shock withdrawal from contesting the ANC’s deputy presidency yesterday has made it clear he will not work with Zuma in the party, raising questions about whether they can run the country together.
By last night, it was clear that Zuma would convincingly win a second term as party president with a new deputy: billionaire businessman Cyril Ramaphosa.
Motlanthe’s decision to take on Zuma for the party presidency has probably brought an end to his political career. But how soon will the end come?
A key member of the party’s national executive committee said there was no reason for Motlanthe to stand down as the country’s deputy president after the conference, but an ANC MP close to Zuma said it might prove difficult for the two men to work together for another 18 months.
A Motlanthe lobbyist said the deputy president might resign “because what is he going to do there now?”
Zuma has the power to appoint Ramaphosa as deputy if Ramaphosa becomes a member of Parliament. The Constitution is clear that the president must appoint his deputy from the members of the National Assembly.
An anti-Zuma lobbyist who is also in a provincial leadership structure said “there is nothing of that nature”, when asked whether Motlanthe would be recalled. But he said Zuma could be suspicious of Motlanthe because Motlanthe chose to contest him. “There was no relationship existing before, so anything is possible from their side,” he said.
“Knowing the kind of person that Zuma is and what transpired when Thabo Mbeki was removed (as president), they tried to remove Mbeki as president of the country with only a few months to go. The same thing might happen this time around. What might be problematic with
Ramaphosa’s move is that Ramaphosa doesn’t see himself as a full-time deputy president of the country.”
Motlanthe was Zuma’s running mate at the Polokwane conference, where they defeated former president Thabo Mbeki and his supporters.
Shortly after it was announced yesterday that Motlanthe was nominated as deputy president, another announcement came that he had withdrawn his candidacy earlier in the day.
Five sources have told Mangaung24 that Motlanthe took the decision to give the favourite nominee – Ramaphosa – a clear run at the position after the two met last week.
Motlanthe moved yesterday to protect his relationship with Ramaphosa by dropping out of the contest for deputy president.
Sources with knowledge of discussions said Motlanthe wanted to secure a convincing victory for Ramaphosa to take on the role graciously and avoid a bruising and divisive battle.
But Motlanthe’s seemingly principled stance did not win him many fans. When his name was called for presidential candidate, there was anaemic clapping from the floor, a good indicator of support.
Lobbyists for Zuma said the president had tried to convince Motlanthe to run as his deputy, but to no avail.
A Motlanthe lobbyist said yesterday Ramaphosa was reluctant to run against Motlanthe, but decided to do so after a meeting with Zuma over the weekend.
A source close to Motlanthe said they didn’t take Ramaphosa seriously initially, but later it became apparent he wanted the job. The lobbyist said they did not regret nominating Motlanthe for president and campaigning for him.
“Whatever they do, the forces of change are still in the ANC and we have to contest an election in 2014. The ANC’s own research has shown that voters want change, and by contesting Zuma we are showing voters that, although some party leaders want to show that everything is hunky-dory, everything is not fine.”
A pro-Zuma lobbyist from the Eastern Cape said Zuma’s supporters were happy for Motlanthe to remain deputy president of the country, but they would be watching him.
“We really want unity in the ANC. For now, we want him to remain in that position, unless he does something contrary to the interest of the ANC,” he said.
- Mandy Rossouw and Carien du Plessis