In the land of African National Congress (ANC) Mangaung nominations there is one dominant rule – the expected procedural rules do not apply, or at best, that they operate on a secondary trajectory. There is space for executive initiatives and deal-makings, which have also been fueled by the Luthuli House ‘moratorium’ on campaigning. The 2007 ANC document, Information Sheet on NEC Nominations (no formal update has been issued), is broadly confirmed as basis for the 2012 process. In the land of ANC elections, nevertheless, a cacophony of competing and cross-cutting procedures and initiatives unfold. The formal guide is that the branches take the initiative, nominate and hold their branch general meetings, which progress into regional and provincial nomination conferences. Finalised nominations have to be at Luthuli House on 26 November. The provincial conferences will probably be on the preceding weekend. The provincial nominations then feed into Mangaung. At present this process’ branch actions, as step one, is a tiny part of rampant nominations politics. The gamut of ANC executive structures – national, provincial, regional, branch, the leagues, and in many cases factions within – charged into action upon the sounding of the Mangaung starting gun on Saturday 29 September. The contest was to make their voices heard in the cut-throat stakes. The goal is to influence or perhaps roughly intimidate the lower branch structures whilst impressing the gate-keepers to power, position and privilege. Appropriate and visible action now will be infinitely more effective in getting top-deployment than the most impressive curriculum vitae or impeccable performance record. Three sets of competing and cross-cutting Mangaung nomination processes are operating. First, there are the 4,102 branches and the formal understanding that branch-up movement democracy will prevail. However, even if there had been evidence that the branches rule, there is little ‘nominational’ innocence left on the ground. By now, the branches have been thoroughly canvassed by factions and leagues that have learnt the lessons from Polokwane. Or, they have been mapped and assessed by their regional executives. Little will be left to chance. Each branch will not just be required to make nominations for the top six officials and the NEC members, it will also elect the branch delegate and his/her alternate. The challenge is on to root out potential turn-coats that may be tempted to use the secrecy of the Mangaung ballot to sabotage the party seniors’ nomination projects. Second, there are the ANC’s Regional Executive Committees (RECs) and Provincial Executive Committees (PECs) who all jumped into open action (much had been happening under the covers in the time of the so-called moratorium) come 29 September. The formal ANC processes, entailing that the branches will take the bottom-up lead, after all, leave so little scope for initiatives of these all-important movement functionaries. Provinces like Gauteng had a General Council meeting as opening event. Limpopo planned hosting a provincial nomination conference. In the Eastern Cape the regional executives hold general council meetings. Executive structures of the Youth, Women and MK Veterans League followed to also try and take the lead over branches and impress the principals. The Western Cape had started with branches and the Free State ANC decided to leave it to the branches. In Limpopo some branches sprung into revolt against their province’s suggestions.

One of the key ‘unknowns’ is the extent to which, as in 2007, the ANCYL for example has managed to sway key branch persons in favour of a challenger

These party executives try to lead the process, despite their controlled role to consolidate and coordinate the branch inputs further down the line. Through their candidate pronouncements they hope to rule in debate, and (almost) make it seem like ill-discipline to challenge the will of the leadership. Judged by reports of their early actions these PEC and REC seniors are not always confident that their nomination wishes will prevail. Some executive structures have set out detailed ‘implementation plans’ to see to it that their candidates’ chances will be optimised in the branch general council (BGC) proceedings. Their anchor persons are in place to ask the right leading questions, make the right nominations and motivations, and attack the unwelcome names. One of the key ‘unknowns’ is the extent to which, as in 2007, the ANCYL for example has managed to sway key branch persons in favour of a challenger. Perhaps some branches will also recall that it was largely the RECs and PECs in the local elections of 2011 that overruled the ANC branches’ candidate listings and instead inserted their own favourites. Finally, there are the big shot nomination squads that try and settle the nominations even before a notable number of branches have triggered their distant processes. Here are the groupings – mostly denied by reported attendees, trying to avoid political damage – that comprise the top-shot power-brokers and kitchen cabinets. Journalist Piet Rampedi recently reported on the Pennington meeting in which a compromise deal between Jacob Zuma and Kgalema Motlanthe was tested. Such are the processes that will bring South Africa its next set of rulers. Until the formal provincial conferences pronounce, and Mangaung confirms, leaks from reliable sources will tell us who will be entrusted, beyond Mangaung, to steer South Africa away from future Marikana’s. Susan Booysen is a political analyst, Professor at Wits University and author of The ANC and the Regeneration of Political Power.

– By ANALYSIS: Susan Booysen, Wits