Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected ANC president in a dramatic election for the party’s top six officials in which its branches appear to have rejected slate politics.

But the failure to elect a woman as either president or deputy has been described as a setback for achieving gender parity in the party’s — and the country’s — top office.

The ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini, secretary Meokgo Matuba and Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu were locked in a meeting immediately after the results were announced. The league’s leadership was deliberating on how to respond to the election of only one woman to the top six.

Ramaphosa was elected along with two members of his slate — national chairperson Gwede Mantashe and treasurer general Paul Mashatile.
Secretary general Ace Magashule, deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte and deputy president David Mabuza were all on the same slate as Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Ramaphosa received 2 440 votes compared with Dlamini-Zuma’s 2  261.

Mabuza and Mashatile are understood to have played a key role in convincing branches to elect across slates — and the two emerged as the most popular figures with the voting delegates. They secured the highest number of votes, with Mashatile getting 2 517 votes and Mabuza 2 538 votes.

Enoch Godongwana, the ANC’s former head of economic transformation and a key figure in the Ramaphosa campaign, said the way branches voted showed that they had rejected slate politics.

“The good thing is that the branches have not elected a slate. This is a very positive development,” he said. “There was no consensus. It did not go according to slates in the way they voted. We hope we can sustain this unity.”

The rand gained some ground on the dollar in response to Ramaphosa’s election, who campaigned on an anti-corruption and anti-state capture ticket.

But the election of Mabuza, Magashule and Duarte, all of whom have been linked to either state capture by the influential Gupta family or other corruption scandals, may thwart Ramaphosa’s corruption-busting agenda.

In contrast, Eastern Cape chairperson Oscar Mabuyane said it would be “impossible” for the three to block initiatives by Ramaphosa. “There is no ANC president that can be neutralised by any office. That is the highest office in the ANC. We need a very strong, effective ANC president to do his work and marshall all the other forces of the ANC.”

KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala said the branches had broken away from slate politics in their voting patterns.

“This is not a slate. This is a balance,” he said. “For me, the members of the ANC have rejected slates. They’ve embraced all.”

He said the outcome was an indication that the branches were unhappy with the divisions in KwaZulu-Natal, caused by the extended conflict between himself and former chairperson Senzo Mchunu.

Mchunu lost the battle for secretary general to Magashule by only 24 votes.

“For us in KZN, we believe that it is not a sad day but it’s a good lesson. It’s a lesson that divisions undermine your strengths. In 1997, when we were united, we ensured those who we nominated are elected. In 2002, the same happened. And in Polokwane we were united and ensured our views emerge. And in 2012, at Mangaung, we ensured that those we nominated emerged,’’ he said. “But today, because of that divisions, we were unable [to have our views emerge]. If you come [to conference] divided, this is what you [get].’’

ANC Youth League president Collen Maine said the youth wing, which supported Dlamini-Zuma, would not challenge the outcomes of the election.

“We support the elected leadership and Ramaphosa is part of that collective. It’s a collective,” he said. “We are a democratic organisation and we have always said that we will accept any outcome.”

Before announcing its preference for Dlamini-Zuma in June the youth league had made it clear that it wanted a woman as the next ANC president, saying it believed the move would bring much-needed change in the party.

But not only had the ANC failed to elect a woman to lead the party, it also had one less woman among the top six.

Maine remained measured on whether he found the minimal representation of woman disappointing.

“We accept the outcomes as they are. The constitution of the ANC is very clear about its composition [of the national executive committee, NEC] being 50-50, so we are confident that the composition will be reflected because it’s a constitutional matter,” he said.

Former ANC president Jacob Zuma looked shocked and horrified when Ramaphosa’s victory was announced, his face contorting as
he sat dead still without clapping. He had earlier kept the delegates entertained with his trademark songs while they waited for the electoral commission to announce the result.

The announcement was delayed for some time while a recount was carried out, apparently at the request of provincial deployees to the commission from the provinces supporting Dlamini-Zuma.

Dlamini-Zuma sat quietly when the result was announced, remaining in her seat while clapping gently. But she jumped to her feet in jubilation, clapping furiously, when Magashule’s narrow victory over Mchunu was announced.

Mchunu’s supporters started carrying him on their shoulders to the stage, mistakenly thinking that he had won. A stony-faced and clearly embarrassed Mchunu found Magashule waiting for him. He then walked off stage.

The Mail & Guardian has seen a copy of Dlamini-Zuma’s planned acceptance speech, in which she would have announced the immediate establishment of the long-awaited judicial commission of inquiry into state capture.

“The president of the Republic will be drawing up terms of reference, which will include spelling out that this investigation should date back to the apartheid government,” the speech read.

Earlier this year the ANC took a resolution to have Zuma establish the inquiry but soon found itself frustrated after what appeared to be delay tactics on his part.

Labour federation Cosatu welcomed Ramaphosa’s election in the face of “naked attempts to stop him from ascending to the presidency”, it said in a statement.

“This new leadership collective has a mammoth task of healing the deep divisions that have widened over the last 10 years.

“We expect them to work hard to rid the organisation of factionalism and corruption that has threatened to collapse this more than a century old organisation and ultimately derail our revolution.

“We also expect the new leadership collective to revive our revolutionary alliance.”

Some of Ramaphosa’s supporters are already pushing for a resolution in the new year to have Zuma recalled as president of the country.

The battle will now move to the 80-member NEC, the highest decision-making body between ANC conferences.

The voting by numbers


Cyril Ramaphosa 2 440

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma 2 261

Deputy president

David Mabuza 2 538

Lindiwe Sisulu 2 159

National chairperson

Gwede Mantashe 2 416 votes

Nathi Mthethwa 2 269

Secretary general

Ace Magashule 2 360

Senzo Mchunu 2 336

Deputy secretary general

Jessie Duarte 2 474

Zingiswa Losi 2 213

Treasurer general

Paul Mashatile 2 517

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane 2 178