Lindiwe Sisulu turns down the offer to be Ramaphosa’s deputy at the eleventh hour
ANC presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa dropped Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu as his deputy due to what he considered her unreasonable demands, sources said.
They said this week that Sisulu had stuck to her guns that it was Ramaphosa himself who had to serve as her deputy at the party’s elective conference next month.
Ramaphosa took many by surprise at the weekend when he announced Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor as his new running mate at a rally in Sekhukhune in Limpopo, much to the anger of the ANC which accused him of usurping the powers of the branches to elect leadership.
The other candidates included Gwede Mantashe as National Chairman, former Kwazulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu as secretary general and Gauteng ANC Chairman Paul Mashatile as Treasurer General. Sisulu’s name had appeared on Ramaphosa’s slate for the past few months amid rumours that she was not interested in serving under Ramaphosa. She had landed credence to such claims when she was quoted in the media as saying she had challenged Ramaphosa to be her deputy instead, because she would only support a female president.
As if that was not enough, Sisulu publicly attacked Mantashe and questioned his credentials and ability to be partial and run a credible conference given his public endorsement of Ramaphosa.
Two independent sources – one from the Ramaphosa camp and another close to Sisulu – who spoke on condition of anonymity said Ramaphosa had numerous discussions with Sisulu but the pair could not find a middle ground.
“The Deputy President engaged her about becoming his deputy, but she was adamant that Cyril Ramaphosa must be her deputy,” said a member of the Ramaphosa camp.
A member of the Sisulu campaign team said the writing had been on the wall for months when the national executive committee (NEC) member got increasingly hostile to the idea of deputising Ramaphosa.
“If you want Lindiwe to kill you, just ask her to be Ramaphosa’s deputy. She will literally kill you. She wanted her media team to release a statement attacking Gwede after he said she behaved like royalty. How do you attack your running mates? People tried to speak to her but she would not listen. It became obvious she was not interested in serving under Cyril,” said a Sisulu campaigner.
Following the deadlock between Ramaphosa and Sisulu, another meeting was set up to try and resolve the impasse but again, the meeting yielded no fruitful results.
“Last week again a delegation was sent to discuss with her but she said “no”. A decision had to be made and [the] DP was asked to check Naledi Pandor if she is willing and available, and she said “yes”, to the relief of everyone,” said the source.
Addressing thousands of his supporters in Sekhukhune on Sunday, during his two day visit to Limpopo, Ramaphosa unveiled Pandor and called on branches to rally behind her.
“Let’s support comrade Naledi Pandor for deputy president,” he said.
The sources further added that Ramaphosa wanted a female deputy to ensure that the party got a female in the presidency. The Deputy President, added the source, however wanted the process to follow the ANC “tradition” where the deputy ascended to power when the incumbent’s term expired.
“From the deputy President’s point of view, a deputy president must be a woman to show commitment that women empowerment is what he stands for. Of course there are now those calling for unity, who are saying Zweli Mkhize must be Cyril Ramaphosa’s deputy,” said the source.
In a stinging rebuke, the ANC on Monday accused Ramaphosa of undermining the powers of branches to elect leaders by prescribing who must be elected, an assertion immediately rejected by the deputy president.
“The African National Congress has noted with concern reports of statements made by leaders of the organization pronouncing on a line-up of comrades to be elected as Officials of the ANC at the 54th National Conference. Such pronouncements are unacceptable whether comrades have a preference or not and seek to usurp the entrenched right of the branches to nominate candidates of their choosing,” Mantashe said in a statement.
For her part, Sisulu lambasted Ramaphosa for allegedly promoting slate politics.
“Unfortunately, the recent pronouncement of slate can only plunge our movement further into the quagmire of disunity and divisions currently plaguing our body politic.
“It is tragic that USA-style politics which was alien to the ANC tradition has gained traction in some sections of our movement,” she said.
“When all is said and done, ownership of the elective conference is with the ANC branches and already, a significant part of these branches have decided on their leadership preferences.”
Ramaphosa said he had noted the views expressed in reaction to his statement but said he was merely articulating the aspirations of ANC branches.
“The names I mentioned for leadership arose from interactions and nominations emerging from ANC structures and should be understood in that context,” Ramaphosa said in a statement. “The views I expressed are by no means prescriptive and do not displace the right of branches to nominate their preferred candidates for any position of ANC leadership.”