A series of blunders by presidential hopeful Lindiwe Sisulu has fuelled calls for her to be left off the Cyril Ramaphosa slate where she has been touted for the position of deputy president.
A high-ranking Ramaphosa lobbyist said Sisulu’s future on the #CR17 campaign list was under discussion because of her comments and the tendency to undermine some people’s contribution to the struggle.
Frontrunners Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma have dominated the early stages of branch nominations thus far.
However, the likes of Sisulu, Zweli Mkhize and other hopefuls will still have a fighting chance at the conference. A nomination from the floor supported by 25% of the delegates would allow for a so-called dark horse candidate to emerge.
“We have not yet taken a decision to kick out Lindiwe but there are some discussions about whether or not to keep her on our list,” the source said.
“She is showing her true colours even before she is elected. It’s like she is entitled and it is irritating.”
There is a view that she is unlikely to have cordial relations with those on the CR17 team, with questions being raised about “how would she work with those people in future?”
The source said “it would be ideal to get a woman instead of a man” to replace Sisulu.
In the latest blunder this week, Sisulu stunned and angered many South Africans with her comments on President Jacob Zuma’s infamous rape trial.
When asked if she believed Fezekile “Khwezi” Kuzwayo, who was the subject of ridicule after speaking out on how a man she considered to be her uncle allegedly raped her, Sisulu said: “I believe she believed she was raped.”
This could be a blow to her campaign, seven weeks before all seven presidential candidates square-up at the much-anticipated five-day elective conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Nasrec, Johannesburg.
This is barely a few weeks after her scathing attack on ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, going as far as questioning his struggle credentials.
Sisulu was angry because Mantashe appeared to endorse Ramaphosa, saying the ANC would be in crisis if the deputy president did not ascend to power.
Boasting about her own struggle credentials, Sisulu charged “where was he when we were fighting for this freedom in exile and in jail, which today he is abusing for [his personal] interest?”
Her continuous blunders have left her team scrambling in a bid to save her campaign.
Lobbyists in the Sisulu camp are also divided on her future, with some believing that her removal from the Ramaphosa slate could spell the end for her campaign.
“If that decision is made, it is over for us. The problem is that she is being misled by people close to her. We don’t really have the numbers to go it alone, so without the Ramaphosa position we are unlikely to succeed,” said one lobbyist.
This sentiment was shared by other foot soldiers who say Sisulu’s arrogance could cost her a place in the Ramaphosa slate.
However, another lobbyist said that there was no reason to panic and that the Ramaphosa camp were merely trying to strong-arm Sisulu into collapsing her campaign into his.
“They won’t remove her from that position, the horse has bolted. Nominations have gotten under way and the branches have put her name down as Cyril’s deputy. How will they explain to all those places that have made nominations that she is suddenly no longer the correct choice?”
Relations between the two camps have been tense for months. The Ramaphosa side continues to accuse Sisulu of being “arrogant” and unwilling to work with them.
Sisulu was put on the slate despite there being no confirmation from her that she was accepting that position.
The minister of human settlements replaced presidential hopeful and ANC treasurer-general Mkhize when it became apparent that there was a serious appetite for a woman in the presidency but also to counter the Dlamini-Zuma selling point of a woman president.
In recent weeks Sisulu has also been announcing that Ramaphosa was welcome to stand as deputy president on her slate saying that, “it is a woman’s time now”.
The Ramaphosa camp had also put Dlamini-Zuma loyalist Febe Potgieter on their slate as deputy secretary-general but have since been rejected by Potgieter.
With less than two months to go before the elective conference, those in the Ramaphosa camp calling for Sisulu to be removed will scramble to find an alternative.
Considerations have been made for presidential hopeful Baleka Mbete, but this was shot down on the basis that she is “a Zuma person”. Some are calling for Mkhize to be returned but that would mean that a woman would be left out of the presidency yet again.
(Photo credit: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)