There’s an old saying about empty vessels making the most noise … and after the ANC’s announcement of the final contenders for its top six offices, it seems as though Lindiwe Sisulu is, politically at least, the emptiest of empty vessels.
The tourism minister, who seems to have spent more time campaigning publicly in the past few weeks than doing her taxpayer-paid job, didn’t get enough nominations from the ANC branches around the country to even get to the starting line for any position.
Nor did Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Before the outraged crowd start yelling about sexism in the ruling party, it must be pointed out that there are other women in the Top Six race – women who got nominations from the grassroots, rather than their praise singers in some media outlets.
These include national executive committee and former minister Nomvula Mokonyane, as well as the party’s general manager at Luthuli House, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule. Interestingly, the vessel making the least noise in political campaigning terms – President Cyril Ramaphosa – got a large majority of nominations from the branches to continue as head of the party and state.
Former health minister Zweli Mkhize – another hopeful making plenty of noise recently – got overwhelming support in his home province, KwaZulu-Natal, but still less than half of the nominations received by Ramaphosa.
Of course, nominations do not guarantee eventual success and, as the nation saw at the previous ANC elective conference at Nasrec in 2017, the party runs on behind-the-scene deals and backstabbing.
Yet, the results of the ballot paper compilation process show that Ramaphosa, no matter what was being said by the vocal minority and social media and in some partisan news outlets, has quietly been winning his party over.
This seems to have been happening notwithstanding the self-created public relations disaster around the burglary at his Phala Phala game farm. The nomination results also indicate that, when it comes to political influence peddling, the days of our éminence grise, Jacob Zuma, may be nearly over.
In his heartland province, KZN, his party preferred Mkhize over his personal choice for presidential office, Dlamini-Zuma. Even then, the KZN structures are themselves still divided, because Ramaphosa has made inroads there.
Another consequence of the finalisation of the ballot paper is that, in most provinces, Ramaphosa’s enemies have been routed. No doubt there will still be ructions – and court cases – as they try to challenge the inevitable.
And, of course, Zuma and his coterie may still try to concoct another “insurrection” as they did last year. But this will, hopefully, be the last kicks of an evil, dying horse. One thing the ANC membership at its upper levels has always been adept at, is gauging which way the political winds are blowing … and clearly they are blowing favourably for Ramaphosa at the moment.
That is why it would take a very brave – or desperate – person to bet against Ramaphosa getting a second term. Hopefully, if that does eventuate and his opponents accept defeat gracefully, we will see more stability across the country – and Ramaphosa will be able to resume tackling corruption.
Any other outcome, frankly, is to terrible to contemplate … and would leave this country a truly empty – and ruined – vessel.