President Jacob Zuma could not stop heaping praises on newly-elected (until Uncle Gwede has his way) ANC chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Bay region on Sunday. To those watching from the outside with their popcorn, this could come across as strange, because only the week before Andile Lungisa promised ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe that he would not stand. Mantashe told him not to, because Lungisa is already a member of the provincial executive committee of the ANC in the Eastern Cape.
City Press reported that Lungisa changed his mind after a call from No 1, so why did Zuma need Lungisa so badly? And why did they both seem to defy Mantashe?
These are some of the possible reasons:
- The ANC in the Nelson Mandela Bay region is an important player in one of the ANC's biggest provinces. The party's national conference in December is fast approaching, and Zuma needs to get on a roll so a candidate sympathetic to him could be elected in his place. A win here would set him on the right path.
- Mantashe is influential in the Eastern Cape, and although he has more influence in the Chris Hani region around Queenstown (Mantashe is from Cala), he has been campaigning hard in the Eastern Cape — unofficially for his chosen presidential candidate, although of course as a loyal party leader he would never do something as ill-disciplined as campaign before the party has declared the right time.
- Lungisa, who was the ANC Youth League's deputy president, turned impimpi at the time when the ANC was conducting a disciplinary hearing against former youth league leader Julius Malema, whom he tried in 2010 to defeat as president (and lost). And a foe of Zuma's foe is his best friend forever.
- Lungisa is a survivor and he knows how to look after himself by getting money out of government coffers. For instance, when he was chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency, he pocketed R800,000 a year and did a few nice trips — like the one to the United States in 2010 where he went to a White House meeting with young African leaders uninvited, with the agency footing the R100,000 bill. It gets better, though. In 2013 he got R2.5 million from the Department of Arts and Culture for not putting up a music show by R Kelly which even R. Kelly knew nothing about. Charges against him were withdrawn last year and he could step up as full and criminally innocent member of the ANC's provincial executive committee again.
- The regional task team that was in charge of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and which was appointed by Mantashe in January last year managed to lose the metro to a DA-led coalition in last year's local government election. Zuma needed someone to wrest the Bay back in the 2021 elections. Okay, we're joking about this one.
- (For free) He's also a man of deep insights. Lungisa tweeted this thought about leadership after his election:
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We do not lead to gain status or praise but to bend history to our will.
- Andile Lungisa— Andile Lungisa (@mrlungisa) March 14, 2017