Jacob Zuma is the latest ANC leader to have lambasted the ANC’s Nasrec conference after Tokyo Sexwale had also expressed the same sentiments. Money-infested, the billion rand election, unANC. These are some of the words used to describe the ANC’s 54th National Elective Conference at Nasrec in December 2017. The conference, which saw Cyril Ramaphosa defeating Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the presidency post continues to be described by many people inside and outside the party as one where money played a formidable role in determining the outcomes.
In this late post-reflection of the conference, Oscar van Heerden in his book simply titled Two Minutes to Midnight- Will Ramaphosa’s ANC Survive, transports the reader back to that five-day conference that saw the ANC members fully divided on their preferred leader for the top post. While there have been numerous books written about Ramaphosa’s narrow victory since then. Van Heerden, however, gives his own personal and insider’s perspective since he was part of the support staff at the conference.
From the singing of divisive songs in the plenary hall, physical confrontations in different commissions, hacking off the CR17 war room cellphones and Jacob Zuma’s face upon the defeat of his preferred candidate, Van Heerden dish all of them in this short book. Now, I need to admit that as a political journalist/writer, reading part one and two of the book felt like I am going through old political articles.
The scribe is basically rehashing what is already in the public domain, whether you were at the conference or you were simply following it on the media. Majority of the issues that the author brings forth are things that are already known. From Ramaphosa’s emotional face after the announcement of his victory, the removal of former Jacob Zuma at the Union Buildings, the 2019 general and provincial elections’ analysis, Ramaphosa’s new cabinet appointment and swearing-in of ministers. There’s nothing new that he brings in re-telling those events.
The first two parts of the book will surely frustrate the reader, especially if you are an avid political reader. I personally believe that if someone will write a book about the Nasrec conference in 2020 or beyond, then the onus is on them to bring new elements to the discussion given the fact that it has been almost over two years since the conference happened. I had also hoped throughout the pages of this book that the scribe will mention, since he was part of the CR17 war room, whether Ramaphosa was aware of his team’s involvement in the bribing of delegates with money and alcohol, as in most cases, he (Ramaphosa) denies that he had no knowledge of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans.
It is only in the last part of the book where I feel the scribe did justice to the title of the book. Because that’s where he perfectly makes it clear what the Ramaphosa’s ANC in government needs to do in order to deal with the country’s socioeconomic issues such as unemployment, eradicating poverty, and growing the economy among others. I think for those who are card-carrying members of the ruling party, this book will refresh their memories and give them a much-needed lesson about the constitution of the ANC.
Van Heerden, who is a veteran of the party, touches a lot on the constitution of the party and how it was previously violated by former President Zuma for years for his nefarious gains. Those ANC members, the so-called ‘fightback’ cadres led by Ace Magashule, who might have ambitious to use the much-anticipated National General Council(NGC) to remove Ramaphosa as President of the party, this book will help them understand the rules and the business of the NGC as stipulated in the party’s constitution.