Sunday Politics: Comrade Unity is missing in action

Johannesburg – As the ANC prepares for what is bound to be a turbulent week because of its step-aside resolution, questions about the unity of the organisation are being asked.

ANC officials, from party president Cyril Ramaphosa to the organisation’s chairperson Gwede Mantashe, have all been vocal on the step-aside issue.

However, there remains one official whose views on many matters, including the step-aside resolution, is not known – that’s David “DD” Dabede Mabuza.

The former premier of Mpumalanga was of late known as Comrade Unity, a cat with nine lives. It was en route to the ANC 2017 elective conference in Nasrec that Mabuza earned himself the name of Comrade Unity.

In his crusade to foster unity in the party, Mabuza, then ANC’ Mpumalanga chairperson – the second-biggest province in terms of size at the time – managed to convince branch members to spoil their ballots at the general council nominating a candidate called Unity. Mabuza was reluctant to back the presidential campaigns of Ramaphosa and former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

In September, Mabuza acknowledged in an address to a gala dinner of the ANC Youth League that factionalism had damaged the party.

“What we have done in Polokwane, what we have done in Mangaung, cannot be repeated,” he said.

Mabuza would in December emerge as a kingmaker in the leadership contest, earning himself a powerful position as Ramaphosa’s deputy.

Since then, questions about what Mabuza has been up to abound.

Those close to him say he is minding his business.

That is, the cat is doing what Ramaphosa has delegated him to do, which includes being leader of government business in parliament, and head of the ANC deployment committee.

Mabuza, apparently, is a man who respects authority and would not want to outshine those at whose behest he serves.

But as the ANC CR17 and radical economic transformation forces tear each other up over the step-aside matter, the question that arises is: where is comrade Unity? The two powerful factions are said to be ransacking Mpumalanga as part of efforts to bolster their strength in the run-up to the party’s national general council and elective conference next year.

On both sides of the divide, no one is talking about Mabuza as deputy again.

Will Mabuza consolidate Mpumalanga to enable him to retain his post as deputy president? Or will he play the unity card to stay on in the powerful position. ANC conferences are normally won and lost a year before they happen.

The wrangling between the two factions over the stepaside matter is also a proxy battle for the control of the ANC next year.

Therefore, the step-aside resolution is set to be the beginning of a victory party for the faction that is going to win the ANC elective conference next year.

It is in this context that the question is asked: Where is comrade Unity to unite the party and position himself for next year?

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