ANC Mpumalanga chairperson David "DD" Mabuza failed to make an appearance at ANC presidential hopeful Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's first campaign visit to his province on Saturday.
NDZ, as she became known, and her campaign team held a rally at the Solomon Mahlangu Stadium in Kwamhlanga, Mpumalanga, on Saturday as part of the ANC Women's League's Molo Makhelwane programme.
The initiative was aimed at building stronger and more socially cohesive communities. However, the event was mostly used as a platform to praise the former African Union Commission chair and to ask ANC delegates in that province to put their faith in her when the party goes to its national elective conference in December.
Mabuza, though absent, was praised several times at the event with thousands of ANC supporters responding through applause; and cheering every time they heard "viva DD viva" coming from the stage.
The provincial chairperson, who kept everyone guessing in terms of where his support lies, also did not make an appearance at presidential hopeful, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's event, which took place in Nelspruit on Saturday.
Call for unity
Mabuza, who has instead been preaching unity and for a slate that represents the different factions in the party, has been nominated by the league for the party's deputy president post, while Ramaphosa did not mention him at all when he named his own preferences for the ANC's other top 5 officials.
"When you see me, you see DD," his deputy chairperson Violet Siwela told News24 at the event. She was joined by several other trusted lieutenants who serve with Mabuza in the province, including its secretary Mandla Ndlovu and several provincial executive committee members.
Mpumalanga is sending the second largest delegation to the conference making it one of the kingmakers in the race for ANC leadership. Many have been vying to get Mabuza's approval but he has been coy and keeping his cards close to his chest.
"DD is sick today," one ANC leader told News24 when asked about his whereabouts.
Dlamini-Zuma was joined by the ANCWL's national executive members lead by the organisation's president Bathabile Dlamini, the ANC Youth League's President Collen Maine and his deputy Desmond Moila. The ANC's deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte was also in attendance.
Dlamini-Zuma gave a short speech at the end of the event, allowing most of those who have gotten behind her campaign to replace her former spouse as leader of the ANC space to address the crowds. But she did share her thoughts on the elective conference taking place in 3 weeks time.
"The conference must choose and those who have won must work with the losers and the losers must work with the winners," said Dlamini Zuma.
She also suggested that the ANC must communicate with society at large once done with the elective conference to give feedback on what has been achieved by the 105 year old liberation movement.