Cyril Ramaphosa’s naming of his potential leadership team was a risky, but strategic move. On Sunday he named science & technology minister Naledi Pandor as his preferred deputy and former KwaZulu Natal ANC chairman Senzo Mchunu as secretary-general, with Thoko Didiza as Mchunu’s deputy. Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile is his pick for treasurer-general when the ANC elects new leaders in December, with current secretary-general Gwede Mantashe as ANC national chairman.

While Ramaphosa was chastised by Luthuli House for naming a "slate" — the leaders aligned to a presidential bid — and taking away the right of branches to decide on their leaders, he was doing publicly what the Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma faction has been doing for months.

Ramaphosa’s move indicates a willingness to depart from the strict and archaic method of leadership contestation in the ANC that has effectively caused the near collapse of internal democracy in the party. Effectively, he has broken an unwritten rule in a lawless organisation.

Putting that aside, the important question is how his lineup measures up against that of Dlamini-Zuma. Mpumalanga party chairman David Mabuza is billed as her deputy, with Free State premier and Gupta lackey Ace Magashule as secretary-general, and another Gupta-ite, Jessie Duarte, as deputy secretary-general. "Hole in the head" minister of international relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is a candidate for the position of treasurer-general, while arts & culture minister Nathi Mthethwa is billed as chairman.

It is no wonder Ramaphosa felt emboldened enough to release the names of his leadership collective. Compared with the Dlamini-Zuma lineup, his team looks like gold. Despite Pandor having been among the most vocal of Zuma’s defenders in parliament over the past decade and presiding over conferences allegedly stolen by his faction, she has faced no corruption allegations and is considered largely untainted.

Dlamini-Zuma’s collective comes with extensive political baggage and, frankly, it reeks of the carcass of the Zuma administration. While Mabuza is opposed to the Guptas, he has faced his fair share of corruption allegations during his long reign in Mpumalanga.

As for Magashule, the Guptas are the generous uncles to his sons, footing the bill for apartments and Dubai trips. The Vrede dairy farm scandal took place under his watch. And he counts captured mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane among his protégés.

As ANC chairman in the Free State since 1992, Magashule is the longest-serving party chairman in the country. He has a reputation for intolerance of dissent and for undermining the party’s internal democracy in his own province.

The big difference between the slates is that most of those in the Dlamini-Zuma lineup bring large constituencies with them. Mabuza has Mpumalanga, the province that will bring the second-largest delegation to the national conference. Magashule brings the Free State, and Dlamini-Zuma has KwaZulu Natal (the largest province) mostly in the bag.

Having Ramaphosa’s slate out in the open deepens the perception of his ticket being one of renewal and restoration. But coming out as publicly as he did indicates that he wants to assure ANC members as well as South Africans voting in 2019 of that fact.

While this approach would ordinarily make sense, the ANC in its current state is far from ordinary. Before turning to SA, Ramaphosa has to ensure that he wins the hearts and minds of the ANC branches and ordinary members who have twice handed Jacob Zuma the presidency.

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