Tshidi Madia12 May 2024 | 8:31

Talks of an early ANC NGC 'both immature & premature' – Mantashe

ANC chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, has shut down talk of an early exit for party president Cyril Ramaphosa as the party faces its toughest elections since coming to power 30 years ago.

Talks of an early ANC NGC 'both immature & premature' – Mantashe

ANC national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe. Picture: X/GwedeMantashe1

JOHANNESBURG - As the African National Congress (ANC) fights for its survival ahead of the 29 May general elections, it seems that some within its ranks are already plotting for a future beyond the current leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Eyewitness News is aware of suggestions that next year's national general council (NGC) be brought forward, to prepare for a possible exit of Ramaphosa should the party not do well at the polls.

The ANC is facing its toughest elections since coming into power 30 years ago. It does so on the back of several polls, suggesting that the governing party will fail to retain its majority at both national level and across several provinces in the country. 

But some of the polls lack credibility as they are created by outfits with direct and indirect links to the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA).

Nevertheless, the ANC's former president, Jacob Zuma, has also complicated the picture, having launched his own organisation, the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MKP), which is hoping to further drive support away from the ANC. 

In response to the many threats, the ANC has deployed its top brass and former leaders across multiple provinces, with Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal getting the lion’s share of its attention. 

Several insiders have told Eyewitness News that the focus, for some, has shifted away from the upcoming polls and they are now looking at national executive committee (NEC) members, in anticipation of the next chapter for the former liberation movement. 

But the ANC's national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, has rubbished such speculation.

"This idea of predicting a caretaker president or something else is actually immature, it is premature," said Mantashe. 

"Immature and premature," reemphasizes the governing party’s national chairperson, as he explains that the only issue the ANC is concerned with at the moment are the upcoming elections. 

"We are planning for an outright majority and that majority will be led by Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the president of the ANC, he is not the president-in-waiting. He is the president of the ANC," said Mantashe. 

No president of the ANC, post-democracy, has completed a second term in office. Thabo Mbeki was recalled by Zuma’s NEC in 2008. Zuma suffered a similar fate at the hands of Ramaphosa’s executive in 2018.

Mantashe again shut down ideas of Ramaphosa not completing his term of office by claiming it was all just speculation. 

"Ramaphosa is president number 13, he’s following 12 other presidents of the ANC and fortunes of those presidents have never been the same… all in the whole history of the ANC," he said.

Mantashe, using himself and the 2022 Nasrec national elections conference as an example, sidestepped questions about those in the party who were hoping for an early exit for the party president, saying he was now campaigning in Esikhawini, which is part of a region that did not support him in his campaign to be elected as national chair. Politics, he said, was about engaging those with different views.

He also took the time to defend the current NEC, which is the highest decision-making body in between conferences for the party. 

"I have been in four NECs as an official, this is one of the best NECs we've been through - it is younger, more coherent and not as divided as it used to be," he said.

Despite his views, so-called "party operators" have started "assessing the ground", studying potential scenarios, some of which have already ruled out deputy president Paul Mashatile as a likely successor, due to a cloud of scandal that now surrounds him, through a series of media articles. 

The ANC's next elective conference is set for 2027.