Where to next for David Mabuza?

Had it not been for Deputy President David Mabuza, President Cyril Ramaphosa would not have won the ANC presidency, believes political analyst Ralph Mathekga.

This is because Ramaphosa's power base in the ruling party was not that strong, and "the people" of former president Jacob Zuma were in power positions, he argues. Accordingly, the picture that emerged at the ANC elective conference was very complex.

"For me it is like the Tower of Babel with all the different factions.

"Some seem to keep on plotting, while others want to ensure that Ramaphosa's victory does not immediately undo the power bases at provincial level," Mathekga said on Wednesday, at a business breakfast hosted by Decision Makers in Cape Town.
"If anyone can be credited for the survival of Ramaphosa, it is Mabuza. He has even said he will 'protect his president'.

"My question is, however, on what terms? When Mabuza responds to questions in Parliament, doesn't he look more and more presidential each day?"

Mathekga said that, although Mabuza is a controversial figure, SA could have done worse with the appointment of a deputy president.

"The 'betrayal' Mabuza staged at the ANC elective conference by going with Ramaphosa raises the question whether he (Mabuza) will survive the next ANC elective conference. The same goes for Ramaphosa," said Mathekga.

"It is anyone's game. We also need to look at the issue of the importance of provinces as strategic 'new' centres of power within the ANC. It is not about good and evil. There are just a lot of interest groups working in the grey area."

'Old factions are still there'

Mathekga believes the "old factions" in the ruling party are still there. He emphasised the importance for these groupings to retain control at a provincial level in order to be able to have some influence on leadership at a national level, for example in KwaZulu-Natal, North West and the Free State.

For Mathekga, the trade unions form another "interesting force" at play. For instance, first the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said it supported former president Jacob Zuma, but now it has said it supports Ramaphosa.

What Mathekga terms "the international community" is another factor, one he feels many South Africans fail to understand the importance of.

"There are expectations from the international community. It wants SA's democratic experiment to succeed. There is an interest in SA's policies on land, for instance," he said.

"There are all these demands on Ramaphosa. That is why he has had to compromise in the power play after the elective conference in terms of his first Cabinet."

* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER