Colesberg – Newly Elected ANC Northern Cape provincial chair Zamani Saul has warned that not following the party’s 50 year tradition of having a deputy president succeed the president could plunge the party into crisis.
“The past practices that informed the election of leadership ensured that we have [a] smooth transition from one leader to another without plunging the organisation into a crisis,” Saul said.
He was addressing delegates at the closing ceremony of the provincial elective conference in Colesberg.
The conference backed Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed President Jacob Zuma.
It declared that the tradition of deputy ascending to presidency must be followed when the succession debate is opened by the party’s National Executive Committee.
“Delegates unanimously agreed that when the debate is opened by the NEC, the ANC Northern Cape will insist on the adherence to the tradition that [the] deputy president should be elected as president when the term of [the] current president comes to an end,” the province’s declaration read.
The Northern Cape, which is the smallest ANC province and is estimated to contribute about 5% of the voting delegates at the ANC December conference, is the first province to endorse Ramaphosa during a congress.
Saul said all the presidents of the ANC, without exception, were deputy presidents since 1967.
He said Ramaphosa should be tested through the Through the Eye of the Needle document that details the values and characters of an ANC leader.
“It is only when he does not pass the test that we could be tempted to look for other contenders. A smooth transition in leadership is at the heart of ensuring a stable and united movement,” Saul said.
Saul was elected unopposed with his new executive after Premier Sylvia Lucas and her entire slate, declined nomination during the conference.
Lucas, who was touted to be backing Ramaphosa’s rival, former African Union Commission chair Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was originally contesting Saul for the position of chair.
The Saul slate, branded #Zamdesh, after him and secretary Deshi Nxanga won all the top 5 executive positions and additional members of the provincial executive committee, leaving Lucas out in the cold in the province.
Her future as premier now hangs in the balance, following her cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday – a move which was rebuked by the ANC at Luthuli House and in the province.
Lucas and her supporters, including MECs and the Youth League, did not attend the final session of the conference – a move NEC convenor for the province Mcebisi Skwatsha described as worrying.
The conference took a resolution, warning that all deployees served at the “mercy” of the organisation and no one was above it.
Saul said the reshuffle, on the eve of the conference, was a “matter the PEC must urgently deal with”.
“We maintain our position that the reshuffle was done with a malicious intention to derail our preparations towards conference. If there were honest motives, the ANC and broader alliance would have been consulted, “ Saul said.
Uniting the province
Lucas said on Friday that participating in the elections would have been an “exercise in futility”, backing claims of discrepancies leading to the conference. She vowed not to give up the fight, and wants the NEC to review the process leading to the conference.
On Tuesday scores of branch leaders and members backing her, marched on Luthuli House, demanding to meet President Jacob Zuma. They wanted the conference postponed claiming it was being “stolen” through widespread gate keeping and manipulation of final branch audits.
The group said it instead met with party deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte who deployed former energy minister Tina Joemat Pettersson to the conference.
She is expected to write a report.
Lucas and her group lost their battle, when the conference accepted credentials that determined that legitimate delegates are attending, despite objections by Lucas’ group.
The Northern Cape elective conference was postponed several times over the allegations, however secretary general Gwede Mantashe finally gave it the green light to proceed.
Saul warned that the conference is the highest making decision body, and once it settled on disputes, its decisions bound all members.
“If any member… finds it difficult to abide by the decisions of conference, then that member defines him/herself outside the oragnisation,” he said.
This comment was seen by some as a reference to Lucas’ decision to ask the NEC to review the conference.
Saul said they would now work on uniting the province, to prepare for the 2019 election campaign to increase the party’s majority in the province.