ANC women’s league eyes full sweep of secretary general’s office, not presidency

Three women have raised their hands for the ANC president and deputy president positions but their chances of getting support from the women’s league are slim as the structure focuses on claiming the entire secretary general’s office (SGO).

This means Lindiwe Sisulu, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Mmamoloko Kubayi could potentially be left off the list of female party members for whom the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) considers lobbying, as the ruling party’s campaign season heats up.

Nomvula Mokonyane, Fébé Potgieter-Gqubule and Gwen Ramokgopa are likely to benefit from the ANCWL’s support, as they have been touted for the ANC secretary general and deputy secretary general positions. 

So far, Mokonyane is the only one of the three to have received an endorsement from  provincial executive committees that have pronounced on their preferred candidates for top ANC positions ahead of the party’s December national elective conference.

Gauteng on Friday resolved to support President Cyril Ramaphosa for a second term, with Paul Mashatile as his deputy and Mokonyane having a position in the secretariat.

Gauteng, which will have the fourth biggest delegation at the December conference, will now lobby other provinces in support of Mokonyane. The outspoken Gauteng leader, who heads the ANC’s organising committee, is likely to have some pull in provinces such as Limpopo and North West. She is also said to be favoured by the losing side at the Eastern Cape conference, led by Babalo Madikizela. 

Ramokgopa, who is the coordinator in the secretary general’s office, has found favour among those linked to the dominant faction in the ANC’s national executive committee. At a special NEC meeting, Oscar Mabuyane, Sibongile Besani and Ronald Lamola are said to have pushed for Mashatile to step away from his role as acting secretary general and allow Ramokgopa to oversee the office, a move rejected by the officials. ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has been suspended, while his deputy Jessie Duarte died.

The ANCWL said it would lobby for the secretary general’s office to be given more capacity with an additional deputy secretary general. With this in mind, the ANCWL says it is pushing for all three positions to be occupied by women. 

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, its task team coordinator Ramokgopa said the league was lobbying for women to be given at least an opportunity to have their own among the ANC’s top six “and we are eyeing the secretary general’s office”.

“Look, we are aiming to actually have the entire SGO … There is also a constitutional amendment that we are supporting to see a second deputy secretary general being introduced. The reason that we are interested in this office is precisely because we do believe that if ever the ANC has to be strong, and the ANC has to go back to being an organisation of choice for the population, especially on the electoral level, you need to have an ANC [SGO] that is strong.

“So you can’t run for any other position, if you don’t want to fix the ANC, and you can only fix it at the engine level, which is that secretary general’s office.”

While the ANCWL is yet to decide on who it will endorse, Ramokgopa said there had been informal talks around the potential women it would canvass for. They stand to gain from the 40 votes awarded as part of the national delegation to decide on the ANC’s new leaders.

She said the women’s league was not worried about the fact that provincial executive committees (PEC) had already pronounced on a male-dominated line-up for the ANC’s top officials.

“In fact, this thing of structures of their PECs pronouncing themselves is alien to the movement. It was not supposed to happen that way. Provinces pronounce themselves through provincial general councils,” she said. “So, we’re not really worried at all, because we do know that when that process starts, you definitely will find women finding expression in the format nomination by provinces and we’re doing our work, we’re working very hard in that regard.”

The troubled ANCWL —  which was disbanded in April after the ANC accepted a recommendation for this from defence minister Thandi Modise —  is unlikely to hold its own conference before the ANC’s elective conference in December.

The NEC appointed Modise to head a panel to evaluate the status of the league before its elective conference. This was after ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini was found guilty of perjury in March after lying under oath during an inquiry into her role in the 2018 South African Social Security Agency grant payments debacle. Dlamini was the minister of social development at the time.

In June, former speaker of the national assembly Baleka Mbete was appointed to head the league task team alongside Ramokgopa and MaQueen Letsoha. She said the league would be able to hold its conference in April 2023, adding that the task team was busy with the organisation’s renewal. 

“Currently, there is a robust process that is taking place for recruitment. We are doing very well. That then tells us that we would be able to have structures in place to be able to deal with the issues that we want to see,” Ramokgopa told the M&G.

“Even if we come out and say the rot is too deep, or is too much, we can come up with solutions. But if we don’t have structures, then what’s going to happen? So, our concentration, our main concentration, is on building the structures and it’s going very well.” 

She added that while it had been difficult to find donors to help the structure with its financial challenges, many women were paying out of their own pockets to help the league. 

“It is so humbling … I didn’t think that it would happen this way. I thought we wouldn’t be able to do it.  We have been attending many programmes in provinces, in regions, where we are invited by women themselves. It’s been good.”

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