Ramaphosa advisor touted to lead tentative ANC Women’s League structure alongside Baleka Mbete

Baleka Mbete will be the convener of the ANC Women's League task team.

Baleka Mbete will be the convener of the ANC Women’s League task team.

PHOTO: Jaco Marais, Netwerk24

  • Cyril Ramaphosa received a boost after his ally, Maropene Ramokgopa, was recommended for the position of ANC Women’s League task team coordinator by the party’s national working committee on Monday.
  • Former deputy president of South Africa Baleka Mbete will be the convener.
  • No resolutions were taken on the ANC’s controversial Ekurhuleni elective conference, or the burglary at Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm.

The ANC’s national working committee (NWC) on Monday resolved to appoint President Cyril Ramaphosa’s special advisor on international relations, Maropene Ramokgopa, as the coordinator of the ANC Women’s League task team.

One-time deputy president of South Africa and former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete will be the convener.

Ramokgopa’s appointment to the position is seen as strengthening Ramaphosa’s political power, given that she is regarded as an ally of the president. Ramaphosa’s popularity has taken a knock following allegations of wrongdoing in relation to the 2020 burglary at his Phala Phala farm.

Ramokgopa is a former student activist, who served on the board of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), and is a former South African consul general in India.

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She has been serving as the president’s special advisor on international relations. In 2021, she was appointed as one of the special envoys to engage with King Mswati III of Eswatini on security and political developments in the kingdom.

Upon disbanding the Women’s League two months ago, the ANC national executive committee (NEC) said it did not want the convener and coordinator of its Women’s League task team to have an interest in leading the structure.

This stance differed from the position the ANC had taken regarding task teams in provinces like Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, where provincial leaders remained in charge after the NEC turned executives into task teams.

This led to the Women’s League leadership at the time – led by its president Bathabile Dlamini – claiming that the Ramaphosa faction was targeting them for “rebelling against him”.

The decision to appoint Ramokgopa and Mbete to lead the task team leaves Dlamini out in the cold and facing further difficulties in retaining her position as ANC Women’s League president.

Further compounding her bid to remain president of the league, is her conviction for perjury in March for lying under oath during a 2017 inquiry into the social grants debacle at the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) that saw millions of grant beneficiaries unsure if they would receive their money.

ALSO READ | Bathabile Dlamini guilty of perjury, court rules

Despite being found guilty, the ANC’s new step-aside policy that says criminally charged leaders cannot contest for party positions does not affect Dlamini, as her paying of the fine is seen as her having served time for her crime.

While the ANC’s NWC made progress by appointing a leadership team for the Women’s League, it failed to make a resolution on its Ekurhuleni region.

The party’s Ekurhuleni elective conference had a contentious ending as only preliminary results could be announced owing to 19 votes having been quarantined by the ANC steering committee overseeing the regional conference, pending a verification process.

The 19 votes from six branches were quarantined due to alleged irregularities in how the delegates were allowed to vote, meaning the party could only declare the results after the national dispute resolution committee verified the outstanding votes.

At the regional conference, former Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina received 163 votes, compared to the 151 of Doctor Xhakaza. Masina’s slate won all five top positions.

Re-elected provincial secretary Thembinkosi Nciza got the most votes, scooping 170, compared to 124 by Women’s League regional leader Nokuthula Xaba.

At Monday’s meeting, the party’s top six officials also failed to report back to the NWC regarding the burglary at Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm, and allegations of wrongdoing by the president in the matter.

News24 understands that the ANC’s top six officials on Monday defended their inability to furnish the NWC with a report on the Phala Phala burglary.

According to at least three sources who spoke to News24, the officials cited the intense public interest in the matter and the need to be meticulous in handling it as the reasons for the delay in producing a report.

NWC members who spoke to News24 said ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe and treasurer-general Paul Mashatile indicated that there was no pushback from the president. Instead, “they said he had given them full rein regarding conducting internal investigations on the matter”.

An NWC member told News24:

The officials said the delay was on their part as they did not want to repeat prior mistakes made regarding Nkandla and how the party handled the Gupta matter when some first raised concerns.

Another NWC member concurred. “Party officials stressed the need to deliberate on the matter fully and to compile an extensive report as having been the reason why they could not give feedback on the matter to the NWC on Monday afternoon,” the NWC member said.

News24 understands that it was not all plain sailing at the meeting, as some of Ramaphosa’s detractors demanded timelines as to when the president would present himself before the ANC integrity committee, and when the ANC top six would submit an extensive Phala Phala report.

No deadlines are said to have been given during the meeting.

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