Women’s Day, a few weeks back, was commemorated in a sprawling tent in Kimberley, packed with ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) members bused in from various provinces. The keynote speaker was President Jacob Zuma, who was welcomed with a gushing introduction by sycophantic social development minister Bathabile Dlamini, who sung her master’s praises.

It was a government event — paid for by taxpayers — but it quickly devolved into an ANC rally for presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who sat demurely in the front.

It wasn’t long before Zuma began singing along to Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign chant: "On your marks, get set, we are ready for Nkosazana."

The crowd, on their feet, belted out the song as Dlamini-Zuma coyly remained in her seat, a smug grin plastered across her face.

The event was a stark illustration of just how state resources are being abused in support of the campaign for the ANC presidency. It’s a worrying trend that is only likely to accelerate in the coming weeks.

This is why the news last week that Dlamini-Zuma will be sworn in as an MP matters so much. You can expect Zuma to appoint her as a minister promptly. It’s a move cynically designed by her former husband to boost her standing as she vies for the party’s top spot in December.

Her opponent, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, has the stature of his office behind him as he addresses a wide range of constituencies, neatly fitting in visits to ANC structures. In contrast, she has had no standing to address structures, barring those provided by her key backers — the ANCWL, the Youth League and the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association.

So her appointment as an MP is designed to give her the same access Ramaphosa enjoys.

Now, she’ll get the financial and logistical perks associated with high office. Until now, her backers have footed the bill — plane tickets, hotel bills and rallies aren’t cheap. But as a minister, her costs can be borne by the state.

The question is where Zuma will place her.

Her supporters want it to be in one of the
all-important economic or security clusters — trade & industry, defence, public works or even finance. This would help her campaign more
efficiently with travel and logistics sponsored
by the state.

It would also give her an opportunity to impose herself within the anti-Zuma ANC parliamentary caucus (a stronghold for Ramaphosa) and rebuild her "identity" outside the ANCWL.

So what of the rumours swirling about Ramaphosa’s possible removal from cabinet?

They began over the weekend and were given voice by the ANC’s Bheki Cele, who complained that there is a plot to remove Ramaphosa to destabilise the ANC ahead of its election.

This can’t be dismissed out of hand, say insiders. Especially as Zuma has apparently become increasingly irate at his deputy’s new outspoken stance.

But, even for Zuma, it would be a tactical blunder. Firing Ramaphosa would release the shackles imposed on him by virtue of being a member of the executive. And, unlike Dlamini-Zuma, he is not hamstrung financially, as he was wealthy before entering office. "Releasing" him would allow Ramaphosa to mobilise freely, and burnish the view that he is a "victim" — a narrative woven with some skill by Zuma himself in his bid for the Union Buildings in 2009.

So it would be a game-changer — but in Ramaphosa’s favour. The fact that Zuma seems to be contemplating it suggests he feels his candidate is slipping behind. Desperation is setting in.

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