Allegations of political assassinations, corruption, iron-fisted rule — such are the topics often mentioned in the same breath as SA’s new deputy president, David Dabede Mabuza. He triggers either revulsion or reverence in those who know him well — there is no middle ground. Speaking to him directly can be unnerving. He possesses a humility that is somewhat charming but belies a slick and cunning interior. Mabuza, a teacher by profession, has emerged as a master political strategist, with the "unity" ticket he spearheaded having quickly become the leitmotif of ANC politics. Now 57, Mabuza’s rise began when he cut his teeth in United Democratic Front politics as a student activist and trade unionist. He rapidly became provincial chairman in Mpumalanga, and 10 tumultuous years later was named deputy president of the ANC. By contrast, his counterpart in the Free State, Ace Magashule, became provincial ANC chairman in 1992. It has taken Magashule 26 years since then to join the ANC’s to...

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