21/12/2017 15:58 SAST | Updated 21/12/2017 15:58 SAST

Zuma's Grip On The ANC Still Tight As A Vice

The Zuma camp still has plenty of influence – a lot more than state president-in-waiting (but is he?) Cyril Ramaphosa would have hoped for.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
President Jacob Zuma gestures during the 54th National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa December 17, 2017.

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa may end up just being a president for display, after failing to secure a majority of his allies in the top six or in the party's national executive committee (NEC).

The Zuma camp still has plenty of influence –– a lot more than state president-in-waiting (but is he?) Ramaphosa would have hoped for.

A close study of the party's newly elected NEC, which comprises 80 members, shows allies of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma –– and State President Jacob Zuma –– elected to key positions in the NEC, in addition to the two (and-a-half?) already in the top six.

Jessie Duarte and Ace Magashule, who appeared on Dlamini-Zuma's slate at the party's national conference, claimed the positions of deputy secretary-general and secretary-general respectively.

David Mabuza is still a wild card –– even though Dlamini-Zuma wanted him as her deputy, he showed no allegiance to her faction in the run-up to the election.

Ramaphosa's faction immediately went on the offensive when Magashule beat his candidate, Senzo Mchunu, by a narrow 24 votes. This after 68 votes had gone unaccounted for, throwing the conference into disarray.

His camp pushed for an intervention, even ready to take it to the courts, but the Zuma faction hit back, threatening to push for the entire election to be scrapped. Ramaphosa weighed up profits against losses and backed down.

So the ANC president doesn't have a majority of his allies in the top six. And the NEC, which is the ANC's highest decision-making body, may also not be within his control.

An analysis of the results shows that 36 of elected NEC officials were from the Dlamini-Zuma slate. Ramaphosa only secured 29. Seven members appeared on both slates ahead of the election, and eight appeared on neither.

News24 reported that the top 10 on the NEC are former treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, small business minister Lindiwe Zulu, Reginah Mhaule (Mpumalanga), David Masondo (Limpopo), Ronald Lamola (Mpumalanga), Malusi Gigaba (KwaZulu-Natal), Zizi Kodwa (Eastern Cape), Violet Siwela (Mpumalanga) and Obed Bapela (Gauteng)... and Dlamini-Zuma.

It's a mixed batch of members, divided between provinces that supported Ramaphosa and those that were backing Dlamini-Zuma.

But Ramaphosa also has some of his staunch confederates in the NEC, like Derek Hanekom, Pravin Gordhan and Jackson Mthembu.

They may not be enough, considering that when the NEC votes, the majority always get their way.

Ramaphosa will have to prioritise gaining the allegiance of his deputy, as well as converting at least ten members of the NEC to his side, if he is to pass any of his motions as president of the party.

If not, it is likely he will be a show president to South Africa ahead of the 2019 elections, while the Zuma camp continues to pull the strings.