African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) member Lindiwe Sisulu has not given up on becoming deputy president if presidential candidate Cyril Ramaphosa wins the party’s fierce leadership race.
This is despite Ramaphosa ditching her for Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.
But she doesn’t plan on making it easy for him. She wants him to publicly ask her to take her hand as his deputy president.
"I have had a conversation with Cyril, I am waiting for him to... go down on one knee and ask, 'will you be my deputy?'," a laughing Sisulu said in an interview with News24 ahead of the ANC’s 54th national elective conference.
On Wednesday night, speculation that Sisulu had officially joined the Ramaphosa campaign was rife. NEC member Derek Hanekom tweeted: "To my delight, @LindiweSisuluSA had joined the @DPRamaphosa and has accepted her nomination as Deputy President. As I said, they will make a great team."
Sisulu - whose presidential campaign was themed "It’s a Must" - has accepted defeat in the presidential race after she failed to receive a provincial nomination for the top post. She doesn’t expect any nominations from the floor.
However, she remains confident that she will get the deputy presidency position, after four of the five provinces that nominated Ramaphosa to succeed President Jacob Zuma gave her the nod.
Sisulu is going up against Mpumalanga ANC chairperson David Mabuza, who has the most branch nominations for the position, and current treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, who was nominated by Sisulu's home province, the Eastern Cape.
Despite Sisulu featuring on Ramaphosa’s slate that did the rounds ahead of the start of the branch nomination process, he made a shock announcement that he wanted Pandor to be his number two.
Sisulu told News24 that they have been "talking" with Ramaphosa.
"Yes, he has said in public that he wants Naledi Pandor, and the branches of ANC have told him what they felt, and I think it has sunk home to him that it is not what he wants. It is what the branches want and that is how it has worked out," Sisulu said. However, some Ramaphosa campaign insiders have said that Pandor could still be nominated from the conference floor. Sisulu said, while the final decision was in the hands of the delegates, it would be important for Ramaphosa to ask her to be his deputy, as "he wants a team that he believes would help him succeed".
Sisulu has described the first open contest for leadership in the ANC as "gruelling, stressful, but educative".
'You can have a slateless campaign'
She was one of three women who contested the presidential race, a first for the party.
"I had a shoestring budget and didn’t have a slate, but we have received the kind of support that says it is possible to run a proper election campaign without negative attributes.
"I have proved that you can have a slateless campaign, with delegates not looking to be bought, and a campaign run by a woman," Sisulu said.
She has slammed proposals for an "arranged" leadership to avoid a contest at the conference.
"We want a group of people that the branches would have given confidence to, and said these are the people we want. An arranged marriage will take that decision from them," she said.
Mabuza has been pushing for a "Unity" slate, trying to get consensus on an "arranged" leadership by talking to provincial chairpersons in the party. However, Sisulu said that, while the talks were ongoing, it was now too late.
"This is an important election, delegates must choose wisely," she said.
She urged delegates to vote with their conscience and refuse to be "bought" to influence the outcome of the elections.
"Delegates must vote with their conscience, it is an important election that they are going into. They must ignore the money... It will live with them and their conscience, and the decision they take will not only live with them, but will affect the generations to come," she said.