Mantashe: the power behind the throne
Chinese military general Sun Tzu is credited with the proverb “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s latest move to bring both ANC deputy president Paul Mashatile and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma into his kitchen cabinet suggests he’s read Sun’s classic military strategy book The Art of War.
Knowing full well that Mashatile is determined to remove him from office, Ramaphosa ignored the advice of allies who counselled him against naming an adversary as his deputy — at least before the 2024 national general elections.
You see, Ramaphosa owed his victory at the ANC 55th national conference more to the efforts of others than to himself or his popularity.
The most senior person in this group who will carry him through in his second term is the re-elected national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe.
Mqwathi, as he is affectionately known, leads a group made up of ANC secretary Fikile Mbalula, Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, Northern Cape Premier Zamani Saul, Mpumalanga chairperson Mandla Ndlovu and newly elected Free State Premier Mxolisi Dukwana.
It’s a cabal also made up of members of the presidency who convinced Ramaphosa not to resign as a result of the Phala Phala Farm robbery cover up.
They successfully carried him through a heavily contested conference into his second term in office.
And as that second term begins, it is becoming clear that Mantashe is the power behind the throne.
His role in managing ANC ructions as well as in ensuring that the current national energy crisis is resolved before next year’s election points to his strong hold over Ramaphosa.
Mantashe has risked much, tackling Ramaphosa’s enemies head on, and the president is indebted to him.
The powerful minister of minerals and energy’s defence of coal as South Africa’s main energy source has endeared him to the mineworkers and to the national executive committee of the ANC.
Over the next five years, Mantashe will oversee the over R400 billion recapitalisation of Eskom and broader solutions to the country’s energy crisis.
The Mashatile faction is left to gather scraps of what’s left of the Jacob Zuma faction, the so-called Radical Economic Transformation group.
Mashatile is seen as wielding veto power in three provinces; the North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
But not much else.
If he succeeds, Mantashe could challenge Mashatile for the throne — and win.
Pictured above: Gwede Mantashe