Cyril Ramaphosa and Ace Magashule. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI
Cyril Ramaphosa and Ace Magashule. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

There was still uncertainty over the election of Ace Magashule as ANC secretary-general at its 54th national conference at Nasrec on Tuesday.

Supporters of newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and his ally, Senzo Mchunu, had earlier raised concern that Magashule’s election was irregular.

Magashule and Mchunu were both vying for the position of secretary-general, which the former clinched on Monday by 2,360 votes to the later’s 2,336.

The group had first cited an irregular second count and then there was the issue of 63 ballots, said to be from Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, that went missing during the election of the top six leadership positions.

The bulk of the missing votes came from delegates said to be from Mchunu-allied branches, increasing speculation that these votes could easily overturn the 24-vote difference that separated the two candidates.

The Ramaphosa camp was shocked by Magashule’s election after the party’s electoral agency announced that Magashule had beaten Mchunu to the secretary-general post.

Ramaphosa’s election as president of the governing party was widely welcomed, but there are fears that half the top structure elected along with him are remnants of the faction aligned to President Jacob Zuma and that they would hobble attempts at reform.

The matter was set to be brought to a plenary session of the conference on Tuesday night, which had not gotten under way by the time of going to printpublication. Despite the wrangling behind the scenes over Magashule’s election, Ramaphosa was upbeat as he made his first public appearance after his election.

He downplayed the divisive top six structure elected on Monday during brief comments to the media on a walkabout at the Nasrec Expo Centre.

"The leadership that has been chosen is a unity leadership. It is a leadership that combines views and approaches that were prevalent in the conference prior to the election and we are pleased that members decided to give us … their own slates, their own leadership as the top six," he said.

Ramaphosa said he believed members would do the same when it elected its top leadership structure, the national executive committee, which was scheduled to take place
on Tuesday. Voting for the NEC kicked off late on Tuesday night.

The delay was due mainly to meetings to iron out the issues around Magashule’s election. Magashule would have been left out in the cold had he not been elected secretary-general, since a court had set aside his appointment as Free State chairman a day before the elective conference started.

Mchunu’s backers indicated on Tuesday they were considering legal options too. Ramaphosa and Mchunu backers were preparing to raise the issue in the plenary session. However, Magashule and Zuma backers were prepared to fight back.

Magashule ally Supra Mahumapelo told reporters on Tuesday that should Mchunu pursue the matter, his North West province, which had backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for president, would push for a repeat of the vote for the entire top six. He urged them to drop the matter of the 63 votes.

A decision on the position of the secretary-general should be announced on Wednesday, the last day of the conference. There was silence on the matter from the ANC’s official communication channels on Tuesday. The new 80-member NEC is also likely to be announced.

Meanwhile, commissions to discuss policy got under way on Tuesday and report backs were expected on Wednesday. The conference will be closed by Ramaphosa late on Wednesday.

With Claudi Mailovich

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