Speaker Baleka Mbete. Picture RUVAN BOSHOFF
Speaker Baleka Mbete. Picture RUVAN BOSHOFF

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete still has her eye on the ANC presidency, despite her campaign seemingly dwindling a bit.

Hardly a week goes by that the two presidential frontrunners, Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, are not vying for votes by addressing ANC structures, but Mbete has been notably absent from the campaign trail.

Mbete, who is also the ANC’s national chairwoman, says she has found it difficult to juggle her roles in government, the party and campaigning.

"The team have been running the campaign so … I from time to time catch up with them. They brief me, they ask me questions…. It is a campaign which does not have money so we just talk to try and make each other feel good and I don’t know this thing about campaigning, I don’t know it," she told Business Day in an exclusive interview.

Mbete said many had come to her and asked her to avail herself but funding for the campaign is a problem.

"Turns out we need money and I’m like, well I don’t have money. People who believe in me, who believe I am the right leader [will vote for me]."

Mbete will be going up against Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma, who is supported by President Jacob Zuma.

Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma are seen to be the frontrunners for the post with both already receiving endorsements from structures in the party.

Mbete’s campaign says predictions from branches seem to put the main contest between Ramaphosa, Mbete and ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, who also has his sights on the leading the party.

Mkhize and various ANC provincial chairpersons have been pushing for a "unitary" approach to ANC leadership to minimise contestation and eliminate slate politics.

Some branches, according to Mbete’s campaign team, are looking at the ANC chairwoman for the position of president with Mkhize as her deputy or for her to deputise Ramaphosa.

Mbete said she would have no problem with Mkhize as her deputy saying the two had come a long way together.

However, Mbete does not agree with Zuma’s compromise solution, proposed at the national policy conference, that the losing ANC presidency candidate should be made the party’s deputy president.

"People stand for specific positions…. These people did not stand for deputy president. There is a team of people who stood for deputy president…. you can’t just abandon them and dump them and now go for somebody else," she said.

On who she would like to see in the top structure of the ANC, leading beside her, Mbete said she would like to see Gauteng deputy chairman and premier David Makhura, although she was conscious of the fact that the province wanted to keep him in the provincial structures.

Others were Fikile Mbalula, although Mbete said he was reluctant, and current National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise.

Mbete already has some ideas of how she would like to change things if she were elected president. This included reducing the size of the Cabinet, which she says is too big.

She would also be relooking at the provinces and concentrating more on districts. Money was being trapped at provincial level and not filtering down to communities, Mbete said.

The speaker also believes the public service should be depoliticised and former directors-general, with much-needed experience, brought back into the fold.

On the ANC front, Mbete, like most of the other candidates, talks about rooting out factionalism and unifying South Africa under one programme.

Mbete said her campaign efforts had sometimes been blocked by factional issues.

On the issue of state capture, Mbete said the inquiry needed to be concluded before 2018 when the ANC starts campaigning for the 2019 general elections.

This is something she would prioritise if elected president.

"The last thing we need is having this kind of thing lingering in the air. Action needs to be taken, that is the whole point of the inquiry. We’ve got to clean up our country because this thing of corruption is un-ANC," she said.

Mbete also said it was regrettable that international law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, National Crime Agency and Serious Fraud Office were investigating corruption in SA.

"I think as soon as we knew that there were sounds and voices and it seemed like there was something untoward we should have acted," she said.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za