Maile vs Lesufi: A race too tight to call as ANC GP leadership race battles on

Both slates will conduct final headcounts on Saturday morning, ahead of the adoption of credentials, house rules as well as the presentation of both the organisational and treasurer’s report to delegates.

FILE: An ANC flag. Picture: Boikhutso Ntsoko/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - Saturday will see the much-anticipated clash between Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi and Cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Lebogang Maile play out.

This is the second time they make a play for the same position, with Lesufi having managed to defeat Maile in 2018 to become the province’s second-in-command.

Theirs is now a race too tight to call, with their respective delegations almost matching in size.

Both slates will conduct final headcounts on Saturday morning, ahead of the adoption of credentials, house rules as well as the presentation of both the organisational and treasurer’s report to delegates.

On Friday evening, which was meant to be the second day of the conference, it ran well into the night, with plans to adopt the credentials being abandoned as the credentials committee continued meeting over the event’s register and hungry delegates wanted a break from their closed session.

Maile’s supporters dubbed “Adiwele,” after a popular Amapiano song by local artists Young Stunna and Kabza Da Small, which speaks of economic prosperity, spent some time deliberating over those it wished to see joining Maile and music producer Thembinkosi “TK” Nciza as Gauteng’s top 5.

Names such as Mbali Hlope, Tasneem Motara and Vuyo Mhlakaza were being debated by the group as a possible deputy provincial secretary.

While those aligned to the unity, renewal and service slate, led by Lesufi have a collective, they have been presenting to party members for most of their campaign.

Attempts to negotiate for a unity slate were abandoned earlier in the week, with both parties refusing to deputise for the other.

Claims that fresh talks had renewed at the sidelines of the conference, were dismissed by most regional leaders and the contenders themselves, with many laying the blame on Johannesburg’s regional chairperson Dada Morero, who is said to be backing the return of outgoing provincial secretary Jacob Khawe to that office.

Khawe is on the backfoot in a three-way race to occupy his office, with the Adiwele lobby group putting its might behind Nciza, while those in support of Lesufi have nominated Sedibeng regional chairperson, Thulani Kunene for provincial secretary.

While to some it's irrelevant who emerges as ANC chairperson, as they will not be able to arrest the party’s decline but instead the question is about who will make better negotiators come election time.

Maile is seen as a leader who could easily find expression with parties like the EFF, with his supporters dismissing Lesufi’s ability to keep the ANC out of opposition benches, they argue his popularity will not bring in votes, nor will he be able to negotiate to keep a seat for the ANC at the table when coalition talks become a factor in the near future.

Those in support of Lesufi claim Maile lacks the ability to inspire enough confidence to change the ANC’s fate at the polls, saying Lesufi is a more trusted leader, who should see the organisation towards the 2024 general polls.

It's also widely expected that a Maile win, will make a nomination for Paul Mashatile’s bid to become deputy president of the ANC a sure thing, even though some in the MEC’s camp are hopeful to cause an upset when it comes to their backing of leaders towards the ANC’s December elective conference.