Kgosientso “Sputla” Ramokgopa could just be the name fielded to upset plans to elect David Makhura to the position of ANC chairperson in Gauteng at the end of this month.

This would derail an existing succession plan which dictates that Makhura will take over from Paul Mashatile who has been promoted to Luthuli House where he serves full time as treasurer.

City Press has been reliably informed of convened caucuses at which the Tshwane chairperson’s name has dominated discussion with some lobbyists believing that he was the ideal candidate to fight off Makhura, who had been the only name put forward to lead the province.

Although Ramokgopa was yet to be approached formally, he told City Press he had received calls from two weeks ago “from comrades in branches” inquiring about making himself available for a position as “one of the office bearers”.

The former Tshwane mayor said: “All I can say is that I’m available to serve the ANC but in a manner that brings unity and ensures that the best among us must lead. We need to ensure there is generational mix and, to the extent that its possible, minimise disruptions. So that’s where I am until I’m formally approached.”

Someone standing against Makhura will put a spanner in the works as it was expected that he would not be contested.

Battle lines were drawn this week for the control of the party in the province when pre-conference war spilt over to the public, leaving the ANC to do damage control.

Things got heated when ANC Youth League members accused Makhura of using “dirty tricks” to try to stop economic development MEC Lebogang Maile and Emfuleni mayor Jacob Khawe’s chances of being elected into the top five.

Maile is contesting Panyaza Lesufi and Parks Tau to become Makhura’s deputy; Khawe is set to face off with the incumbent Hope Papo for the position of secretary.

The league criticised Makhura for muddying the waters for Maile as he preferred Tau to be his deputy. This was prompted by the manner in which Makhura mandated the Special Investigating Unit to conduct forensic investigations in the provincial government, one of which includes Maile’s department.

“We believe in fighting corruption”

Making the announcement on Wednesday, Makhura said the unit would probe irregularities involving contracting between Maile’s department and a R26m prepayment made to Enviro Mobi, a company linked to ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe, for the supply of motorised three-wheelers.

This was the same day in which Maile handed the vehicles to informal waste pickers.

Maile denied there was tension between him and Makhura, saying: “I work in the cabinet led by comrade Makhura and we work very well. All of us agree that any wrongdoing must be investigated and we must get to the bottom of it”.

He said it would be worrying if there were people who were using state machinery to fight him.

“I don’t want people to use my name to divide the ANC because the trend now is people are conveniently and opportunistically using our names to fight their own battles. In Gauteng we are advanced and believe in transparency and we believe in fighting corruption and nobody must speak in twisted tongues when it comes to fighting corruption. I don’t think there is anybody who is using state resources to fight any battle in the ANC.”

Papo dismissed as false and malicious allegations that Makhura was abusing state resources to target his opponents, pointing out that Makhura had over time informed the party of plans to deal with corruption and maladministration.

Ramokgopa warned that public battles served only to weaken the ANC, adding “there is a bigger battle that awaits us; that’s 2019”.

Both Ramokgopa and Maile supported a succession plan, saying it could be done without undermining the democratic contestation and without tainting the democratic space. But Maile pointed out the downside of succession plans saying: “It can be abused and used to sideline people.”

“If we allow the few elites to decide, then the ANC will have problems. So this is about saying give everybody a fair chance and ensure that we elect the best among us.”

Maile said he had not declared his availability yet but would never reject any responsibility from the ANC.

“I am not obsessed with myself; I am subjected to the discipline of the ANC and its branches; if ANC branches nominate me, I have never rejected any responsibility from the ANC. I grew up in the ANC,” he said.

Tau broke his silence this week, telling City Press that the Johannesburg regional committee has put his name forward for the position of deputy chair. “I have indicated my availability subject to nominations from branches.”

The former mayor was tipped last year to take up a seat in the party’s national executive committee (NEC), but declined.

“Declining the nomination for the NEC was a decision of the PEC [provincial executive committee] … it was a collective decision of the organisation and I duly accepted that decision.”

Tau denied that turning down the NEC nominations was a guarantee that he would get a place in the provincial structure. He also distanced himself from insinuations that he was Makhura’s “chosen” right-hand man. Tau said he preferred finding consensus on leadership before reaching the conference floor, though any agreement would be subject to endorsement by the branches in Gauteng.

Tau’s lobbyists said they were aware of plans to field a candidate to dislodge Makhura’s campaign but were confident it would not succeed.

“It is something that happens every conference. Makhura is basically a done deal, they are doing it just to make him feel some heat but we are not worried. They must bring anyone,” a lobbyist said.

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