I am not ready to be president – Lesufi

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, 55, has no intention to raise his hand to contest for the ANC presidency, and the Union Buildings will have to wait longer, if at all, he said in an exclusive interview with Sunday World Engage.

To push him to a national level, Lesufi argues, would disrupt his calling to lead Gauteng’s people to new heights, spelling it out in no uncertain terms that he neither harbours any ambition of becoming the country’s No 1 nor the ANC leader.

In Lesufi’s view, there are better-suited candidates within the ANC who are eligible to run for the presidency. This stance will come as a shock to many who are touting Lesufi to challenge for the position of ANC president in December 2027 – to take place three years after next year’s national and provincial elections.

The national conference is expected to be highly contested, with incumbent party secretary-general Fikile Mbalula among the top runners for the position in a campaign, known as Project 2027, that is already underway. Party deputy president Paul Mashatile is also expected to try his luck – which is probably the main reason why Lesufi will not be in the race. The thinking is that if the two go for the same position, this will likely split the Gauteng vote. Lesufi said his main preoccupation for the foreseeable future was to save the ANC in Gauteng and nothing else, hinting that, in any case, by the time the ANC’s 2032 national conference takes place, he might have retired from politics.

“I think my political work in Gauteng is preoccupying me. Any other mandate beyond that, I do not think I am ready for. I am not ready [to be president]. Not yet. I am still young; I need to learn. There is a full generation before me that must be given that responsibility.”

Lesufi said: “We are young and leading a young Gauteng. Let us spend time and energy ensuring that Gauteng becomes what all of us want it to be.

“My focus is on Gauteng. I have played my part. If voters or branches of the ANC believe I need to continue my responsibilities in Gauteng, I am more than willing to do so. Any other responsibility outside Gauteng – I do not think I am ready for that.”

Presently, Lesufi believes he is preoccupied with the mammoth task of arresting the ANC’s electoral decline in the province. According to him, the biggest task is to ensure that the governing party retains an outright majority in next year’s national elections.”

He is confident this can be achieved if all the ANC leaders and members in the province roll up their sleeves and work hard for victory, which will not come easy. He said he has sacrificed his family time to dedicate all his energies to the ANC work.

His football hobby also takes a back seat, as is his physical well-being, he said.

Lesufi said he was encouraged by the latest internal election research the ANC Gauteng has commissioned, which puts their support base at about 52%, an improvement from the 45% predicted a year ago by a similar study.

The ANC’s quest for outright victory will be tough, with other political parties pulling all stops to field high-profile candidates for the position of premier in their attempt to wrestle voters away from the ANC. The EFF is taking one of their most popular national leaders, former party spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, to go toe-to-toe with Lesufi.

The DA will field former Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga,while the Patriotic Alliance chose the charismatic party deputy president Kenny Kunene.

“We will remain an outright majority in Gauteng, I have no doubt about that,” he said. “We are preparing to win Gauteng without a coalition partner, and we are prepared to occupy the opposition benches if we cannot do that because coalition discussions are going to destroy the future of our country and our province.”


For more on this and other issues, visit Sunday World News on YouTube for the full Engage interview.

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