Pandor card heralds new openness

Naledi Pandor
Naledi Pandor

In an unprecedented move on Sunday, Cyril Ramaphosa, a top contender for the ANC presidency next month announced his running mate along with his preferred candidates for the remainder of the top six berths.

Questions abound about his selections and what they say about the factional alignment in the ANC.

Naledi Pandor is his choice for deputy. Although it is not clear what constituency she brings to the table, she is a respected elder leader and she also happens to be a woman.

This is Ramaphosa's answer to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Lindiwe Sisulu on the gender card.

But Ramaphosa's announcement is notable for the cultural shift it is bringing to ANC electoral practice.

It is no secret that this is the most highly contested leadership race in the ANC's recent history. Given the scandal-prone Zuma era, there is a new battle for what remains of the soul of the ANC.

As such, hopefuls are at pains to set themselves apart as ethical and progressive. They need to distance themselves from the blatant dishonesty and corruption of the Zuma years.

Part of doing this seems to be to establish a new culture of openness and transparency in ANC's election processes.

Ramaphosa has gone a step further than the defiance that saw many of the candidates announce their ambitions publicly, at a time when this was contrary to ANC policy. This defiance eventually compelled the national executive committee to allow for the practice.

Ramaphosa has lifted the lid on any speculation about who he wants to make up the core of his top six moving into next month's elective conference.

With the race no longer shrouded in secrecy, there is a platform for the discourse to move from speculation to debates about core issues.

This provides the opportunity not only for branches of the ANC but the public more broadly to interrogate the leadership qualities and credentials of those vying for the posts as well as to begin asking questions about the policy agenda these leaders have.

Perhaps this is a signal that under new leadership, the ANC will be better placed to adapting the character of a modern political party, shedding the mantle of a liberation movement.