Is SA's security at risk as ANC factional battles play out in security cluster?


JOHANNESBURG - At a time when the country is desperate for leadership in the face of a crisis following the failed insurrection that left more than 200 people dead and set back the country’s economy, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s security cluster ministers have waged a tit-for-tat blame game while failing to reassure the nation of its safety amidst the uncertainty.

The political battle for survival has brought back to the fore battles of the inxiles vs exiles, factions and seniority that have plagued the party, exposing the fractures that have seeped into Cabinet.

The failure by Ramaphosa’s government to protect the nation’s security has seen fresh calls from within the ANC and externally for him to go, or for him to not reshuffle his whole Cabinet but fire some ministers and appoint those that will execute his vision for the country.

Ramaphosa picked a Cabinet that appeased the African National Congress (ANC) factions as he tested his strength after the party's Nasrec elective conference that produced a deeply divided ANC. Despite vacancies, he has not changed his Cabinet.


As he tries to piece together what went wrong and plan better should there be a resurgence, Ramaphosa has had to deal with the embarrassment of his most senior Cabinet minister openly contradicting him. Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was quoted as saying there was no evidence of an attempted insurrection.

Ramaphosa labeled the violence, which included riots, destruction of property and the widespread looting of malls, as an insurrection and an attack on South Africa’s constitution.

Mapisa-Nqakula has since backtracked, saying that the media decided to spread the issue.

“I am being portrayed as an irresponsible young girl. I think I’m senior enough, I’m politically mature enough, to appreciate that there are things you cannot play around with, one of those is this situation we are finding ourselves in,” the visibly irritated Mapisa-Nqakula told journalists over the weekend.

“I am here, I am working very hard like everybody else and when the time comes, of course, I will then leave KwaZulu-Natal and continue to serve if the ANC wants me to serve,” continued Mapisa-Nqakula.

Her parting shot that she “will serve if the ANC wants me to serve” has riled some of her comrades, some interpreting it as a veiled signal to the ongoing battle for control of the ANC ahead of what is expected to be a tumultuous elective conference next year.


As Mapisa-Nqakula speaks to her seniority, those defending her within the ANC’s National Executive Committee were also quick to show her up against her boss, Ramphosa, reciting her struggle credentials that included military training, being a member of the party’s military wing uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and her time in exile. She found support from those who backed suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.

“There nothing about him [Ramaphosa] being a soldier, just Nosiviwe is and is better trained, thus she understands what's happening better,” an NEC member told Eyewitness News late on Tuesday night.

The NEC member also defended another former MK member - State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo - who has also been dominating headlines over her spat with Police Minister Bheki Cele.

Dlodlo insisted that the State Security Agency (SSA) gave the South African Police Service (SAPS) intelligence timeously, warning of the violence that erupted.

“We received that information and that information was analysed and handed over to police,” Dlodlo said.

But Cele told Parliament’s portfolio committee sitting in KwaZulu-Natal he never received it.

He indirectly dared Dlodlo to provide evidence that he indeed received the information.

“When you receive product [intelligence information] of State Security, you sign.... You go check my signature there; I want to end there on that one,” Cele told Members of Parliament.

Those supporting Ramaphosa have defended Cele - who is largely seen as loyal to Ramaphosa after he helped deliver him ANC votes from KwaZulu-Natal for his party presidency.

Insiders claim that ANC internal politics continue to get in the way of Ramaphosa’s Cabinet doing its job, with those who served the party in exile undermining his leadership.

“They think they are more senior than him and know better just because they served in exile and he didn’t,” one minister who did not want to be identified told Eyewitness News.

Another ANC insider said that it must be Dlodlo and Mapisa-Nqakula who must face the chop.

“Those two must be fired, they messed up. How did Ayanda fail to see this coming? Has she given a proper explanation? Nosiviwe must just go,” said a supporter of the president.

While they all bicker, the country still does not know what the details of Dlodlo’s intelligence was. If indeed she warned timeously with usable and specific intelligence, did Cabinet discuss what would be the SAPS’s operational response and did they believe it was adequate?

Another questioned if state security needed to give police those details to do their job. “Where were the water cannons? How come Jabulani Mall that is opposite a police station was attacked and police couldn’t stop it?"

While Mapisa-Nqakula also told journalists she had clarified her comments before the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints), which brings together the South African Defence Force, SAPS and SSA, another insider said that the Defense Minister missed an opportunity to publicly clarify her position, forcing the acting minister in the presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, to throw her under the bus by echoing Ramaphosa’s views as government’s position.

WATCH: Defence minister contradicted President Ramaphosa when she said there was no planned insurrection

Mapisa-Nqakula, Dlodlo and Cele are part of the security cluster. but insiders say there is mistrust and are doubtful that a coherent plan will emerge. However, the president is also said to be meeting with the directors-general for status reports.


While Ramaphosa’s foes want him out of the Union Buildings, his supporters argue that he now has the majority support of the NEC and he can go ahead and rearrange his Cabinet.

The litmus test for control of the NEC was the relection of a new person to the ANC's National Working Committee to replace the late Jackson Mthembu.

The faction that supported suspended Magashule nominated Dlodlo but she lost by a huge margin to Gwen Ramokgopa.

At the time, those who did not support Dlodlo’s bid told Eyewitness News that they felt that she was too conflicted and struggled to figure out where she stood between two warring factions.

After Mapisa-Nqakula contradicted the president, her name suddenly started doing the rounds within some ANC circles as a possible contender for the party's top six at the 2022 elective conference.

It's understood that those close to the president in Cabinet believe that the recent violence was created to frustrate Ramaphosa out of office, with some saying that the failure to contain the violence was on him and that he must step aside.

“This is worse than Marikana, it's five times worse. He must go,” said one of the president’s detractors to Eyewitness News.

The ANC leader claims that Ramaphosa called the unrest an insurrection to cover his own back, accusing him of failing to account.

“This is a man who makes too many promises. Last week was about the broken promises. People are frustrated, they remain poor yet he made promises about Eskom, about jobs… none of these have been delivered on,” continued the ANC insider.

With Deputy President David Mabuza said to still be out of the country for medical treatment, insiders have said that Ramaphosa is unlikely to reshuffle before he returns.

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