THE LONG race TO BE No. 1


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The race to suc­ceed Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma as leader of the ANC in 2017 is tear­ing the party’s na­tional, pro­vin­cial and re­gional struc­tures apart. No fewer than six can­di­dates are be­ing touted as pos­si­ble can­di­dates, a great deal more than the two-horse races run by Zuma and then pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki in 2007 and by Zuma and his deputy, Kgalema Mot­lanthe, in 2012.

City Press has spo­ken to more than 20 lead­ers of the party at na­tional, pro­vin­cial and re­gional lev­els, as well as lead­ers of the SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) and Cosatu in get­ting a sense of the early lead­er­ship op­tions.

In­sid­ers told City Press the party’s na­tional gen­eral coun­cil gath­er­ing (NGC) in Gaut­eng in Oc­to­ber would see pol­icy dis­cus­sions be­ing used as proxy bat­tles for lead­er­ship con­tes­ta­tion. The af­ter­math of the NGC will then see open but in­for­mal bat­tles be­ing waged by fac­tions fight­ing for their pre­ferred can­di­dates. The for­mal nom­i­na­tion process will only be­gin in the year of the na­tional con­fer­ence.

“Af­ter the NGC, peo­ple will know Zuma’s time is up and 2017 will be the next mile­stone. The lob­by­ing will be in­for­mal, but it will be strong,” said a se­nior leader.

The machi­na­tions around the re­cently con­cluded ANC Women’s League con­fer­ence and next week’s youth league one have been mainly about po­si­tion­ing can­di­dates for the suc­ces­sion bat­tle.

The most ac­tive has been the camp back­ing African Union chair­per­son Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is be­ing pushed on the ticket of be­com­ing the coun­try’s first fe­male pres­i­dent. Her as­cen­dancy would break the ANC’s post-un­ban­ning tra­di­tion of the deputy leader au­to­mat­i­cally suc­ceed­ing the in­cum­bent.

The ANC is try­ing hard to pre­vent the NGC be­com­ing a re­hearsal for the elec­tive con­fer­ence.

ANC head of pol­icy Jeff Radebe said in an in­ter­view the is­sue of the suc­ces­sion race would not be en­ter­tained at the Oc­to­ber gath­er­ing and any per­son or group try­ing to use it for that pur­pose would be “com­pletely out of or­der”.

“The is­sues of lead­er­ship and so on do not fea­ture in the NGC, be­cause that would be the man­date of na­tional con­fer­ence,” he said.

ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) mem­ber Lindiwe Zulu said the ANC would be “in­tol­er­ant” of dis­or­der, not open up space “for op­por­tunists to di­vert the party ... it does not help the ANC”.

Se­nior ANC lead­ers have taken a strong in­ter­est in the lead­er­ship out­come of the youth league’s na­tional con­fer­ence next month.

NEC mem­ber Nathi Mthethwa, who is one of the con­ven­ers of the con­fer­ence, said it was nor­mal, as the leagues wielded some in­flu­ence.

“What can­not be al­lowed is for things to de­gen­er­ate into fac­tional bat­tles. What is un­ac­cept­able is peo­ple di­vid­ing struc­tures of the move­ment,” he said.

Party spokesper­son Zizi Kodwa said talk of lead­er­ship suc­ces­sion would only be en­ter­tained once the nom­i­na­tion process was of­fi­cially opened.

“From the point of view of the ANC, the time to talk about 2017 has not ar­rived,” he said.


Dlamini-Zuma vs Ramaphosa

Public com­ments by ANC lead­ers such as Zuma about the party and the coun­try be­ing ready for a fe­male leader have raised the spec­tre of Ramaphosa’s am­bi­tions be­ing thwarted. When Ramaphosa re­turned to for­mal pol­i­tics in 2012, it was as­sumed he was the nat­u­ral suc­ces­sor to Zuma. But Zuma loy­al­ists ar­gue he can­not be trusted to pro­tect Zuma from post­pres­i­dency crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion for cor­rup­tion and sanc­tion for the Nkandla de­vel­op­ment, as well as other scan­dals that oc­curred while Zuma was in of­fice.

Other dis­sent­ing voices within the struc­tures of the ANC’s close ally, the SACP, have spo­ken about the dan­gers of a “cap­i­tal­ist” be­com­ing pres­i­dent .

Oth­ers ar­gue his as­so­ci­a­tion with the Marikana mas­sacre would be an al­ba­tross and the ANC can­not af­ford to have another pres­i­dent dogged by con­tro­versy dur­ing his ten­ure.

Dlamini-Zuma’s op­po­nents say it would be un­seemly for the pres­i­dent’s ex-wife to suc­ceed him.

“Peo­ple feel we can’t have a dy­nasty thing de­vel­op­ing in South Africa,” said one leader.

Oth­ers also cite the 66-year old Dlamini-Zuma’s age as a mi­nus, as she would be 70 years old at the time of in­au­gu­ra­tion.

The premier league

The Dlamini-Zuma cam­paign has the back­ing of the so-called premier league – an in­flu­en­tial lobby group whose key fig­ures are North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, Free State Premier Ace Ma­gashule and Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza. KwaZulu-Natal sec­re­tary Sihle Zikalala, who is gun­ning for the lead­er­ship and premier­ship of the province, is also as­so­ci­ated with this group­ing.

Its ca­pac­ity to launch a for­mi­da­ble cam­paign has been at­trib­uted to the fi­nan­cial and lo­gis­ti­cal re­sources avail­able to lead­ers of the group as a re­sult of their po­si­tions in gov­ern­ment.

Crit­ics of the premier league claim it hand­picks del­e­gates to con­fer­ences, in­clud­ing gath­er­ings of the leagues, and bul­lies them into vot­ing a cer­tain way.

A di­vided KwaZulu-Natal

The ANC’s largest province has turned up at pre­vi­ous con­fer­ences as a united front. It was al­ways able to use its su­pe­rior num­bers to push its can­di­dates and pol­icy po­si­tions or do trade-offs with other prov­inces.

But the ANC’s re­gions, most no­tably eThek­wini, are split be­tween sup­port­ers of Zikalala and chair­per­son Senzo Mchunu. These fac­tions in turn are back­ing dif­fer­ent horses in the 2017 race.

Mchunu’s fac­tion is strongly op­posed to the premier league and qui­etly forg­ing al­liances with Lim­popo and the Eastern Cape in a bid to build a strong coun­terbloc.

NEC mem­ber Bheki Cele, who is hugely pop­u­lar in the province and aligned to this group­ing, is emerg­ing as a key fig­ure in this anti-premier league bloc.

Gaut­eng: The rebel province

In 2007, Gaut­eng sup­ported a “third way” that would avoid a bat­tle be­tween Zuma and Mbeki. When the cam­paign of the province’s favoured can­di­date, Tokyo Sexwale, failed to gain trac­tion, the province re­luc­tantly threw in its lot with Zuma and used its num­bers to strike deals. At the Man­gaung con­fer­ence in 2012, the province was the pivot of the “change” cam­paign that backed Mot­lanthe against Zuma.

Through­out the Zuma years, the province has swum against the rest of the ANC’s un­ques­tion­ing sup­port for Zuma and taken stances that have ir­ri­tated the na­tional lead­er­ship. With Zuma’s sup­port wan­ing, the province’s mav­er­ick na­ture has gained it re­spect from dis­si­dents in the ANC. With the province be­ing the most co­he­sive and its mem­ber­ship set to over­take the Eastern Cape as the sec­ond-big­gest by 2017, it is likely to re­place KwaZulu-Natal as the king­maker. In­sid­ers ex­pect Gaut­eng to team up with the anti-premier league bloc and op­pose the Dlamini-Zuma bid. While the province was ini­tially seen as Ramaphosa’s best bet, its re­la­tion­ship with him has cooled of late be­cause of his role in the e-tolling saga. He has also alien­ated many in the province with his fail­ure to stand up to what they con­sider Zuma’s foibles.

“Ramaphosa is al­ways men­tion­ing Zuma many times in his speeches, say­ing ‘the pres­i­dent this, the pres­i­dent that’,” an ANC in­sider said.

The province is now in­for­mally fish­ing for another can­di­date, with Mot­lanthe and Radebe’s names be­ing bandied about as po­ten­tial con­tenders.

But Gaut­eng strate­gists told City Press they had de­cided it was “still too early” to do any se­ri­ous work on the 2017 race.

One in­sider said Gaut­eng was “care­fully con­sult­ing” be­fore it could play its cards, be­cause when the province took a po­si­tion peo­ple “ganged up” on it.

“Its highly un­likely Gaut­eng will join the premier league be­cause the same pre­miers are lead­ing an on­slaught against the province, par­tic­u­larly Paul Mashatile.”

The province’s poor per­for­mance in last year year’s gen­eral elec­tion is its big­gest im­ped­i­ment to play­ing king­maker.


The is­sue of vote-buy­ing has been iden­ti­fied by the ANC as a ma­jor headache, with money de­cid­ing the out­come of elec­tions at all lev­els of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Talk was rife at the women’s league con­fer­ence that del­e­gates were be­ing show­ered with cash and gifts and ac­cu­sa­tions were fly­ing within the youth league that in­cen­tives were be­ing thrown at del­e­gates to next week’s congress.

In some in­stances, whole ANC branches are said to be “owned” by busi­ness­peo­ple who are aligned to fac­tions and vote ac­cord­ingly at con­fer­ences.

“The ques­tion of dish­ing out money is like a ghost. It can’t be proven ... it’s elu­sive and not some­thing you can put your hand on. We do have cases [be­fore us] gen­er­ated by the use of money. We con­demn that. It is a chal­lenge in the move­ment that we have to deal with,” said NEC mem­ber Fikile Mbalula.

He de­scribed vote-buy­ers as “scavengers”.


The prob­lem of vot­ing ac­cord­ing to lists (also known as slates) was first iden­ti­fied at the Polok­wane con­fer­ence when a vote for ei­ther Mbeki or Zuma au­to­mat­i­cally trans­lated into votes for ev­ery­one on their list. It has now be­come com­mon prac­tice at all ANC con­fer­ences.

ANC lead­ers have ex­pressed con­cern that this prac­tice has the ef­fect of throw­ing out ex­pe­ri­enced and good-qual­ity lead­ers who hap­pen to be on the wrong slate, and favours weak in­di­vid­u­als who op­por­tunis­ti­cally jump on to the win­ning side.

This fate be­fell Mbeki sup­port­ers in 2007, and Mot­lanthe’s back­ers in 2012, and has re­peated it­self in lower struc­tures and the leagues.

“Ev­ery time the ANC goes to a con­fer­ence, it loses a chunk of it­self,” said an ANC leader.

The sec­re­tary-gen­eral

Since the party’s sec­re­tary-gen­eral con­trols the party ma­chin­ery and has di­rect ac­cess to branches, he has a strong in­flu­ence over the di­rec­tion of a party congress.

It is the sec­re­tary-gen­eral’s of­fice that au­dits branches and can dis­qual­ify branches not deemed to be in good stand­ing. It is there­fore ad­van­ta­geous to have him on your slate.

“You can­not ex­clude a sec­re­tary-gen­eral, be­cause he is the ad­min­is­tra­tor. If you do so, your cam­paign is as good as doomed,” said a Gaut­eng ANC leader about the pos­si­ble in­clu­sion of the cur­rent in­cum­bent, Gwede Man­tashe, on their slate when they be­gan lob­by­ing.

Those close to Man­tashe said he would def­i­nitely re­turn to the ANC’s top six, as he was likely to fea­ture on most slates. He is said to be eye­ing the num­ber one po­si­tion but will hap­pily set­tle for deputy pres­i­dent. – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Sizwe sama Yende, Poloko Tau and Paddy Harper


From left: Cyril Ramaphosa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Jeff Radebe. Gwede Man­tashe, Zweli Mkhize and Baleke Mbete

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