Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Inside lane: Panyaza Lesufi demonstrated a hands-on approach as MEC. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI /SUNDAY TIMES
Inside lane: Panyaza Lesufi demonstrated a hands-on approach as MEC. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI /SUNDAY TIMES

Gauteng’s hands-on education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, has taken the lead in the battle to become the deputy chairman of the ANC in Gauteng.

This and other positions will be decided at the provincial elective conference set to take place at the weekend.

The elections in 2019 will be a make-or-break poll for the ANC in Gauteng, as the new leadership due to be elected has to put up a tough fight to retain control of the richest province.

Support for the ANC has slipped dramatically in the last two elections. In the 2014 national poll, the ANC in Gauteng shed 10% of its support. It was dealt a further blow in the 2016 local election when it lost two key metros: Johannesburg and Tshwane.

Former Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile was elevated to the ANC’s national treasurer at the party’s national conference in December.

He is expected to be replaced by deputy chairman David Makhura, who is standing uncontested for the post.

Parks Tau

The position of deputy chairman is now heavily contested between Lesufi, economic development MEC Lebogang Maile and former Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau. Lesufi built a profile in his post as MEC with a hands-on approach, after a lengthy period working for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, who was also among the ANC’s top brass in Gauteng.

Business Day understands that Lesufi has an edge, judging from nominations from the regions including parts of Ekurhuleni and Tshwane. But while nominations can provide an early indication of support, they may not translate into votes at the conference.

Makhura said once the conference for Gauteng was over, the province will be battle-ready for the elections.

There are still internal challenges for the party in the province. Provincial secretary Hope Papo said large sums of money were being used to "destabilise" the ANC and ensure that it did not have time to prepare for the elections.

He said disgruntled members in two regions were threatening court action against the party, a move that could have an impact on the conference.

"We warn against those who want to keep the ANC busy in courts so that we have no time to pay attention to the issues affecting society," he said.

Makhura said the economy, the cost of living due to fuel hikes and the increase in VAT and the contentious electronic tolling of Gauteng roads would be discussed at the conference.

Despite research showing e-tolls had damaged the ANC’s electoral fortunes in the province and despite attempts to intervene by the national government, Gauteng has been unable to deal adequately with the unpopular system.

Makhura said the matter had been discussed with President Cyril Ramaphosa.