Comrades: Cyril Ramaphosa and Gwede Mantashe. Picture: THE HERALD
Comrades: Cyril Ramaphosa and Gwede Mantashe. Picture: THE HERALD

The ANC should ask itself difficult questions if it did not elect its deputy president to succeed the outgoing president, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Wednesday.

"Now, I don’t want us to create traditions that do not exist, but when we elect a deputy president, you should be having succession in mind, that’s a more correct argument.

"Once you have a deputy and you elect someone else, you ask yourself difficult questions: is this deputy not competent enough to be the successor? That belongs to the debate more than the tradition.

"That debate must be allowed space. There is a deputy president, he is a competent individual; can he actually ascend to power and lead the organisation? If not, what are the issues?" Mantashe said at a round-table discussion with journalists.

He was asked about the argument that tradition dictated the deputy president of the ANC should succeed the president as the party prepares for its national conference in December.

Mantashe’s comments come as speculation is rife that he supports Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to succeed President Jacob Zuma when his term ends in December.

The ANC is trying to quell talk of succession within its ranks. But a number of lists purporting to be the preferred candidates for the different factions continue to emerge.

On Tuesday, a list purporting to be that of the Ramaphosa camp was published in The New Age newspaper. It included Ramaphosa for the post of president, with Zweli Mkhize as his deputy, David Makhura as secretary-general, Enoch Godongwana as treasurer-general, Thandi Modise as chairwoman and Vuyiswa Tulelo as deputy secretary-general.

An ANC Youth League "compromise" list has also started making the rounds.

The league’s president, Collen Maine, implied in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday that the league would not be supporting outgoing AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma.

Maine denied that the list belonged to the league, accusing whoever compiled it of trying to divide the ANC and the league.

The so-called youth league list has Free State ANC chairman Ace Magashule at the helm of the party, with Dlamini-Zuma as his deputy. The list includes ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairman Sihle Zikalala as secretary-general, Nomvula Mokonyane as deputy secretary-general, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane as treasurer-general and Mpumalanga chairman David Mabuza as national chairman.

Political analyst Ralph Matshekga said the lists had the potential to strengthen the internal processes of the ANC.

"Some of the people, I think, are producing a list with the main intention to test the waters and so forth. Those lists should not be taken seriously, but the aim of the list is to test the thought and change the thought process of the branches and so forth," he said.

These lists were a lobbying tactic used in an environment in which talking openly about succession was frowned upon.

Mantashe said those circulating lists thrived on chaos and divisions in the governing party and it was the ANC’s duty to push this group to the periphery and force them to play according to the rules.

Contrary to this belief, Matshekga said the circulation of lists could be seen as a push for the democratisation of ANC processes from below.

Not allowing members openly to debate who should lead the party worked in favour of the deputy president.

"There is no formal process through which people can lobby in the ANC…. [So], It’s just people getting around the ANC’s nostalgic, old tradition and people are trying to find a way to circumvent this culture. You can’t put a lid on this," he said.

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