Battle brewing in the ANC as Eastern Cape bosses target Paul Mashatile

Eyewitness News has learnt that Oscar Mabuyane and Lulama Ngcukayitobi have complained to the party’s top officials about ANC Treasurer General Paul Mashatile.

FILE: ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile addresses the media at the Mlangeni’s  home on 28 July 2020. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - A fresh battle is brewing in the ANC with party president Cyril Ramaphosa’s supporters working on a plan to strengthen their presence at Luthuli House amid growing frustrations over Paul Mashatile’s handling of the party’s administration.

The unhappiness was amplified by complaints from the ANC’s Eastern Cape leadership over Mashatile’s perceived support for the losing faction at last weekend’s provincial conference in East London.

Eyewitness News has reliably learnt that newly elected ANC Eastern Cape Chairperson Oscar Mabuyane and provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukayitobi have complained to the party’s top officials about the party’s Treasurer General Mashatile. Their unhappiness stems from Mashatile’s handling of the conference preparations and his perceived bias in favour of Babalo Madikizela who lost the chairmanship contest against Mabuyane.

The two Ramaphosa allies believe Mashatile and Nomvula Mokonyane, who’s part of the ANC’s organising committee, worked together to frustrate efforts to hold the conference in a move designed to bolster the chances of their opponents.

“There were just too many underhanded things happening throughout the weekend, lots of funny actions and it seemed [Mashatile] had a direct line to those who opposed us,” said an insider close to the pair.

The complaint comes at a time when Ramaphosa’s backers are losing their patience with Mashatile, whom they believe is using his control of the party’s administration for his political benefit.

Mashatile is acting in the position of secretary general because of Ace Magashule’s suspension and the ill health of Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte.

When Ramaphosa’s grouping, which currently dominates the national executive committee, won the battle to have Dr Gwen Ramokgopa deployed to the secretary general’s office as a coordinator, their plan was to get their hands on the levers of the party’s administration.

But while Ramokgopa is regarded as a good administrator, she is said to lack the necessary political authority to assert herself against Mashatile and Mokonyane who are said to be running Luthuli House.

“We are taking precautionary measures,” one of Ramaphosa’s key allies told Eyewitness News.

“Gwen is toothless, her role has some serious limitations and she’s dealing with the mafia there… something has to be done to help her,” observed one of Ramaphosa’s supporters.

Mashatile is said to have sided with Madikizela and his supporters at the Eastern Cape conference which overran by two days amid delays and an unsuccessful court challenge by a grouping sympathetic to Madikizela.

At the heart of the dispute were delegates from two regions aligned to Mabuyane.

In the end votes from some branches in the Chris Hani and Dr WB Rubusana regions were quarantined. But that move did little to stop Mabuyane and his entire slate from being comfortably elected to their positions.

Mashatile’s influence was also felt on the plenary floor of the conference when those in support of Madikizela refused to accept interventions or decisions taken by Ramokgopa. It is understood that they argued that they would only recognise verification processes signed off by Mashatile, arguing that he was the only one authorised to do so.

Mashatile is believed to be vying to become the party’s deputy president when the ANC gathers for its national congress in December.

Even though Madikizela lost the battle to lead the province, Mashatile’s backers believe that with 40% support in the Eastern Cape the former Gauteng Finance MEC stands a good chance of getting a top position in December.

While Mashatile himself was not present at the conference venue, several of his lieutenants were present, often seen watching on and caucusing at the side-lines.

Similarly, those aligned to Ramaphosa and with their roots in the Eastern Cape were present.

Mashatile has managed to keep a low profile, allowing for a narrative to build up that Madikizela supported former health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize when in fact it is the treasurer general who has Madikizela in his pocket.

Those throwing their weight behind Mashatile argue he is the most diverse leader, who has a key understanding of the organisation and the communities it serves. His inner circle say they are willing to negotiate with anyone, “who wants to win,” to find common ground ahead of December.

“We are definitely not CR, we are not RET… call us kingmakers, those who want victory will have to go through us, they’d have to negotiate with Paul,” said a party leader associated with Mashatile’s camp.

Mashatile has a footprint across numerous provinces, which now includes the Eastern Cape, the North West, his home province of Gauteng and the Free State.

Eyewitness News understands Ramaphosa’s supporters are yet to pick the other top five candidates to make up his slate, arguing that those who want to be part of the final line-up should first bring their support base to the table.

Ramaphosa is pretty much guaranteed the position of president, with most within the party agreeing his candidacy is good for the ANC chances ahead of the 2024 general elections.