AS AFRICAN National Congress (ANC) branches continue with the nominations process ahead of the party’s Mangaung conference in December, several names from the past have started popping up.
At the weekend, the Mpumalanga ANC said it wanted Cyril Ramaphosa to be deputy president to Jacob Zuma. At the same time, the Gauteng ANC proposed former ANC and government policy chief Joel Netshitenze as one of its candidates for the role of ANC secretary-general.
While there might be an element of wishful thinking in some of these nominations, it is also an indication of some real tensions and difficulties within the party.
Mr Ramaphosa left front-line politics in 1997 and went into business. It’s a decision that has often been queried, considering his stellar career up until then. As one of the most successful leaders the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) ever had, and one of the faces of the United Democratic Front who helped write the constitution at Codesa, the presidency appeared to be his for the taking. Add to that what many people describe as sheer personal presence and charisma, and he was a politician of the first order.
Since his departure, he has been careful to remain on the ANC’s national executive committee but managed to stay out of the day-to-day political hustling and fighting.
For political analyst Sipho Seepe, it is this perceived "neutrality" that makes Mr Ramaphosa so attractive: "It’s an opportunity for people who are looking beyond the two current candidates (Mr Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe) ... it opens the political space."
Prof Seepe also says this means Mr Ramaphosa could be acceptable to more than one grouping within the party.
But the real question is whether Mr Ramaphosa would accept such a nomination. Before the ANC’s Polokwane conference there were several rumours he would be nominated from the floor, in a bid to break the deadlock between then president Thabo Mbeki and Mr Zuma. That did not happen, and he did not provide any encouragement to those rumours.
However, the Gauteng ANC’s nomination of Mr Netshitenze is perhaps more divisive. He was closely tied to Mr Mbeki when he was in power and, as Prof Seepe puts it, "was a main architect of the 1996 Class Project" (which saw the establishment of the Gear economic policy, much hated by the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions).
Since leaving government office, after Mr Mbeki’s defenestration, Mr Netshitenze has published several newspaper articles highly critical of the party and, by implication, its current leadership.
This may well be a signal by Mr Zuma’s enemies that they are willing to use his perceived faults, and lack of formal education, against him. At the same time the decision by the Mpumalanga ANC (which is firmly behind Mr Zuma) to nominate Mr Ramaphosa could also be a sign to Mr Motlanthe that there are other big fish in the sea, and other political options available.
However, in the final analysis, it seems likely Mr Zuma’s grouping will prevail at Mangaung, and he will be able to decide who is elected to the ANC’s top six national leadership posts with him.
As a result, he could be unlikely to pick someone who might upstage him. This could argue against Mr Ramaphosa’s inclusion on the Zuma slate (a group of people who run together as one ticket).
This could suggest that for both Mr Ramaphosa and Mr Netshitenze, this is more of a last hurrah than a second coming.
• Grootes is the host of the Midday Report on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk