Re-elected Ramaphosa must watch his back where Mashatile lurks



While being encouraged to step boldly forward, re-elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa must watch his back, where new party deputy president Paul Mashatile lurks.

During his first term, supporters said Ramaphosa couldn’t act more forcefully against radical political opponents because of the narrowness of his 179-vote win over Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in the ANC’s 2017 leadership contest. That excuse is no longer valid.

On Monday, he more than trebled the previous winning margin to 579, securing 2 476 votes to Zweli Mkhize’s 1 897.

It was the largest winning margin in all the contests for top seven positions at the ANC’s 55th national conference. In addition, five of the top seven are Ramaphosa loyalists. The exceptions are first deputy secretary-general Nomvula Mokonyane and Mashatile.

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Yet the Ramaphosa clean sweep is not what it seems. He certainly has the numbers to chop opponents such as Dlamini-Zuma, who voted against him in parliament last week, and Lindiwe Sisulu, who managed not to be in the house at voting time.

Dlamini-Zuma and Sisulu have limited support, despite the coverage they receive on mainstream and social media. Sisulu could not secure nomination for any top seven position.

Mkhize is not the threat he was made out to be. The numerically superior KwaZulu-Natal, supposedly under the sway of either Mkhize or former president Jacob Zuma, or both, failed to win any top-seven position.

Mashatile is in a different league. He received more votes (2 178) than the combined totals for the two Ramaphosa-supporting deputy presidential candidates, Ronald Lamola (315) and Oscar Mabuyane (1 858). And he is not beholden to any faction.

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In 2007, when he was Gauteng MEC for finance, Mashatile was dubbed the Alex Mafia don, for alleged procurement irregularities. The label hasn’t disappeared but there has been no criminal case, making him, on paper, one of the cleanest of the top seven.

For example, Ramaphosa has not shaken off the Phala Phala scandal. ANC national chair Gwede Mantashe and first deputy general secretary Nomvula Mokonyane were both named as Bosasa beneficiaries during the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

Mashatile, a former ANC Gauteng chair, has lately been multitasking in the offices of the ANC secretary-general and party treasurer at Luthuli House.

As one insider, who may not be named, told me on Tuesday: “He’s been aiming for president for many years and very adroit in building the internal support to get there.” And, “the Alex Mafia stuff is all true”. But not proven.

A behind-the-scenes operator, Mashatile was chief ANC negotiator in dealings with the Patriotic Alliance which led to a vote of no confidence against Joburg mayor Dr Mpho Phalatse earlier this year.

While Mashatile quietly consolidates his deputy president position, Ramaphosa must still clear his own name on the Phala Phala scandal. Even if, as he states in court papers, the Section 89 panel report was flawed, too many questions remain unanswered.

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Mashatile will no doubt be ready to move when Ramaphosa falters. But the ANC presidency is not a glittering prize.

Riddled with corruption, the party has again voted tainted people into high office. South Africa’s renewal will commence only when the ANC is voted out.


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