AS THE dust settles after the election on Tuesday of the African National Congress’s top six national leaders, a picture of the political and representative balance of the newly elected body is beginning to appear.
While three of the leaders — party president Jacob Zuma, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and national chairwoman Baleka Mbete — are returning, the addition of deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize means the balance of the top six has shifted fundamentally.
The ANC prides itself on representing the country as a nonracial, multiclass organisation. As such, anyone compiling a power bloc of leaders running together for positions, known as a "slate", needs to ensure the group represents the various strands in the governing party.
While Mr Zuma appears to represent KwaZulu-Natal and, to an extent, people living in rural areas, the inclusion of Mr Ramaphosa and Ms Duarte could add to the leader’s understanding of the concerns of the urbanised middle class, which sometimes seem not to understand Mr Zuma.
Ms Duarte showed during her time as ANC spokeswoman that she is capable of articulating ANC positions in a way understood by this constituency. While there were times when several journalists accused her of losing her temper, in the main she is articulate and dedicated, and has a phenomenal work rate.
Her election to this post caps a difficult five years for her. She left the post of spokeswoman to work in the Presidency. However, she then appeared to be without a job after leaving for an opportunity in the private sector that fell through. Now she’s at the top table of the ANC.
Mr Ramaphosa can also speak to the business constituency in the ANC. He understands the world of business, and should be able to articulate the party’s positions to that constituency. Business organisations will be hoping he will take their messages back to other ANC leaders.
The retention of Mr Mantashe as secretary-general was always vital to Mr Zuma’s plans. Mr Mantashe has shown himself to be perhaps the country’s best political operator, and his love for a good political scrap keeps him in the public eye. But it is his hold on the political shifts in the ANC that is vital here. Notwithstanding the criticism that could be levelled at his office following the Constitutional Court’s finding that the Free State ANC’s June conference was invalid, he has generally shown he is able to manoeuvre the provincial machinery of the ANC.
The election of KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize to the post of ANC treasurer-general means the party may need to revisit an earlier decision to make that post full-time. Mr Mkhize is also the leader of the KwaZulu-Natal ANC, and will probably need to vacate that position (though there is a precedent, involving Mr Zuma himself, that could justify his retaining both positions).
But Mr Mkhize’s new position could be seen as a reward for his role in growing the KwaZulu-Natal ANC to the point where it could nearly guarantee Mr Zuma’s re-election.
While this group of leaders is generally representative of the ANC as a whole, it is missing one, possibly vital, constituency.
All six leaders are above the age of 55. This seems to be a complete rejection of the idea of a "generational mix", which was the rallying cry of Mr Zuma’s opponents.
No one is now representing the younger generation of ANC members, but Mr Zuma is unlikely to lament that fact.
• Grootes is an Eyewitness News reporter.