Allies of President Cyril Ramaphosa secured key positions in the ruling party’s leadership in the Gauteng province, boosting his power ahead of national elections in 2019.
Several of Ramaphosa’s allies in Gauteng, where he has enjoyed widespread support, were elected to the African National Congress’s provincial leadership on Saturday. Premier David Makhura was elected unopposed as the provincial chairperson, Jacob Khawe as secretary-general and Parks Tau as treasurer-general by party delegates, according to an announcement on the party’s Twitter feed.
In power since the end of white-majority rule in 1994, the ANC has seen its majority support wane in elections over the past decade. The party won its fifth national election with 62% of the vote but suffered its worst electoral performance in the 2016 local-government vote when it lost control of major cities including the capital Pretoria, and the economic hub Johannesburg — both in Gauteng. The 106-year-old party is seeking to win back the confidence of voters at the polls next year to retain control of Gauteng and resolve divisions in KwaZulu-Natal, its biggest region.
“The challenge for the Gauteng ANC is whether they can inspire the voters who stayed away on 2016 to come forward and vote,” Ivor Sarakinsky, an academic director at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Governance in Johannesburg, said by phone Friday. “If they can, it will be a comfortable victory but if the scars of ANC non-performance in townships is such that it has a lasting legacy, then the result in Gauteng could be quite close.”
The 2019 election is going to be a hard-fought one, particularly in Gauteng, Ramaphosa told party delegates at the start of provincial conference in Pretoria. “Every political party will be looking at Gauteng and how they can continue to erode our support in the province,” he said.
Meanwhile in KwaZulu-Natal, where former President Jacob Zuma hails from and enjoys widespread support, Sihle Zikalala was elected as chairperson, Mdumiseni Ntuli as secretary-general and Nomusa Dube-Ncube as treasurer-general.
The region, which has the party’s largest membership, held its elective conference following months of delays after party members approached the courts to nullify the results from an earlier conference that saw Zuma’s allies emerge victorious.
Ramaphosa didn’t address the KwaZulu-Natal elective conference, though he was present when the election results were announced on Saturday, according to the party’s Twitter feed. When speaking in Gauteng, he warned that factionalism and infighting could cost the ANC votes at elections next year.
“There is this new tendency in the ANC where contestation basically means hatred, where comrades hate each other so much that they don’t even want to work with each other — that must end,” he said. “The public, the electorate, when they see us fighting and see disunity they walk away from us.”