Sat Oct 21 12:39:17 SAST 2017

Motlanthe stands firm - Gloves off as Zuma faces test


A BRUISING ANC leadership battle is on the cards with deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe set to challenge both President Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa.

WHOSE CHAIR?: Kgalema Motlanthe will challenge President Jacob Zuma. Picture by Kopano Tlape
IN THE MIX: Cyril Ramaphosa is running as Zuma's deputy.

Expectations of a deal to avert a contest were dashed as the respective camps hardened attitudes and prepared for a battle - when the ruling party's 53rd national congress starts today.

Sunday World has learnt that Motlanthe held a private meeting with Ramaphosa in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Ramaphosa is understood to have asked Motlanthe not to contest Zuma. In turn, the businessman pledged not to run for the ANC deputy presidency.

However, sources said Motlanthe maintained that his political future will be decided by delegates.

Also at the meeting was former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president James Motlatsi - a common friend of the two former NUM general secretaries.

Motlanthe's acceptance of his nominations for the positions of president, deputy president and a member of the national executive committee (NEC) was interpreted as a "declaration of war" by the Zuma camp.

"This man (Motlanthe) has declared war. There will be no deal," said a Zuma lobbyist. As delegates were arriving in Mangaung yesterday, it emerged that ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete declined nomination for the deputy presidency but accepted the nomination to retain her position.

Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula accepted nomination for secretary-general and will challenge the incumbent, Gwede Mantashe.

Yesterday the ANC's NEC met to discuss, among other issues, the Constitutional Court ruling on the Free State provincial conference and the disputes over credentials of delegates.

The ANC NEC disbanded the Free State provincial executive committee and stripped it of powers to vote at the party's national elective conference.

Head of ANC policy Jeff Radebe, flanked by Mantashe, told the media last night that the NEC agreed with the Constitutional Court ruling that the Free State provincial conference was unlawful and invalid.

"The province will be leaderless at the national conference and a task team has been appointed to organise another provincial conference in the next three months," Mantashe said.

He added, however, that the Free State delegates will participate in the conference.

At the same time, conference preparations were nearly thrown into disarray when the University of the Free State threatened to throw out the ANC after it failed to pay upfront for the venue and accommodation for the delegates.

But after a meeting with the university management, the ANC settled its bill, understood to be R14m, on Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Zuma appears to be readying himself for a future with Ramaphosa as his deputy. Last week he told the London-based Daily Telegraph: "It would not be the first time I worked with Ramaphosa. When he was the secretary-general I was his deputy. So it would not be the first time, if he is elected," Zuma said.

Efforts to get Ramaphosa to comment failed.

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