Co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has raised her hand to once again challenge President Cyril Ramaphosa for the ANC leadership when the party holds its national conference in December.
This could be a game-changer for the ANC presidential race in which Ramaphosa was tipped to be re-elected uncontested.
In response to questions from the Sunday Times, Dlamini-Zuma, through her spokesperson Mlungisi Mtshali, said she had been approached by party branches to enter the race for the presidency.
“As part of the ANC nomination process, some branches have asked her to stand and she has agreed,” said Mtshali.
Dlamini-Zuma is the first ANC leader to publicly throw her hat in the ring for the top job.
Her move comes at a time when Ramaphosa’s popularity has taken a knock in and outside the ANC. He is under siege for failing to publicly account for an alleged robbery at his Phala Phala farm where bundles of US dollars were stolen. He is under investigation by the public protector and the Hawks.
Dlamini-Zuma’s availability could hit the leadership hopes of tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu. They are both expected to lobby the ANC Women’s League to back their candidacy.
Dlamini-Zuma’s confirmation also throws a spanner in the works in KwaZuluNatal where former health minister Zweli Mkhize was hoping to get an endorsement. The two, who share close family relations, are expected to compete for support from the same structures.
Should Dlamini-Zuma reach the threshold for her name to be on the ballot, it would be a repeat of the 2017 showdown, which she lost to Ramaphosa by 179 votes.
Dlamini-Zuma will need nomination from a province or have her name raised from the floor and be seconded by at least 25% of conference delegates.
News of her campaign emerged after provincial leaders who had visited former president Jacob Zuma revealed he had insisted on his former wife challenging Ramaphosa.
She is said to enjoy support of the women’s league in KwaZulu-Natal. Insiders identified former eThekwini mayor Zandile
Gumede as one of her key lobbyists.
A few weeks ago a poster promoting her candidacy was distributed on social media. This sparked a debate about her availability to stand again.
But this week Mtshali confirmed his boss had not lost her ambitions to become ANC president.
“I am sure you are aware that it is the branches who nominate candidates, and she will avail herself should the branches nominate her,” he said.
This will complicate matters for Mkhize, who is said to have the support of at least seven of the 11 regions of KwaZulu-Natal.
Party members with intimate knowledge of the Dlamini-Zuma campaign told the Sunday Times this week that a plan was being hatched in the province to present one name for the position of president.
“[Jacob] Zuma confirmed it when we were in Nkandla last week but said that they are in talks with Zweli Mkhize,” one ANC member said.
Mkhize’s adviser Vuyo Mkhize referred the Sunday Times to regional leaders when asked for comment.
Dlamini-Zuma did not respond to questions about what role, if any, her ex-husband was playing in her second attempt at the presidency.
Neither did she reveal the intention of the purported talks with Mkhize.
The Sunday Times reached out to Zuma via his spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi, who said: “President Zuma is more of a private person than many people appreciate or realise. It’s not everything that he does or not do that he wants to make public. We appreciate that you offered him a right to comment on your story. Enjoy your day.”
Gumede denied being involved in Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign.
“I would like to place it on record that I am on step aside and not involved in any campaign for anyone,” she said.
The ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee seems to have taken a stance not to endorse any leader for the upcoming conference.
Provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo said branches of the ANC will nominate prospective leaders and any endorsement by provincial leaders could be tantamount to influence.
Dlamini-Zuma’s branch of ward 32 in eThekwini region is, however, expected to nominate her name, according to branch insiders.
The race for the deputy president’s position is also heating up. On Friday the ANC Mpumalanga provincial executive committee endorsed justice minister Ronald Lamola, snubbing incumbent David Mabuza.
“The other names deliberated on will be discussed with other provinces as the PEC officials were given the responsibility to lead the lobbying process,” the PEC statement read.
Other candidates for the position are treasurer-general Paul Mashatile, human settlements minister Mmamoloko Kubayi and Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane.
Mashatile has the backing of Limpopo, North West and Gauteng. Mabuyane is expected to get an endorsement from his home province.
Another position expected to be highly contested is that of secretary-general.
Outgoing Gauteng premier David Makhura, former KZN provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli, former Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle, transport minister Fikile Mbalula, ANC general manager Febe Potgieter, Gwen Ramokgopa, Nomvula Mokonyane and head of the presidency Sibongile Besani are said to be eyeing the position.
Former Nelson Mandela Bay councillor Andile Lungisa is said to be campaigning to become the next treasurer-general. Lungisa could go up against finance minister Enoch Godongwana.
Party branches are expected to start nominating their preferred candidates this week.
– Sunday Times