Play­ing open cards about her pres­i­den­tial as­pi­ra­tions, the House Speaker will for­mu­late her cam­paign ap­peal on her se­nior­ity, on ANC unity and on women’s is­sues

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For the first time, ANC na­tional chair­per­son Baleka Mbete has given rea­sons she should be con­sid­ered as a con­tender to lead the gov­ern­ing party. In an in­ter­view with City Press, she con­firmed that she would be avail­able to stand for the ANC’s top job, and ul­ti­mately pre­side over the coun­try, when the party chooses Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s suc­ces­sor at its na­tional elec­tive con­fer­ence in December.

“I have served in the ANC for just over 40 years and oc­cu­pied var­i­ous roles in the process, my lat­est be­ing the party’s first fe­male na­tional chair­per­son. And I have had the hon­our of serv­ing as such for two terms,” she said.

“An in­or­di­nate vol­ume of lessons has been learnt in this jour­ney, in­clud­ing lead­er­ship lessons.”

Mbete added that she had over­come var­i­ous chal­lenges through­out her life that had pre­pared her for any tough task.

The Na­tional As­sem­bly Speaker con­ceded that she would be­gin her cam­paign on the back foot, as other con­tenders had been ac­tively cam­paign­ing for some time al­ready.

She said it would be up to her sup­port­ers to do the leg work of in­ject­ing life into her as­pi­ra­tions.

Mbete’s lob­by­ists say her sup­port base will come from groups in the Eastern Cape, Gaut­eng and KwaZulu-Natal.

The cur­rent fron­trun­ners for the top job are Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa and for­mer African Union Com­mis­sion chair­per­son Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Since fe­male can­di­dates are now show­ing that they are up for the chal­lenge, Mbete will not only com­pete against Dlamini-Zuma but also against Hu­man Set­tle­ments Min­is­ter Lindiwe Sisulu.

Asked about whether the ANC had given suf­fi­cient space for fe­male lead­ers to emerge, Mbete said: “I do not think that we can wait for the per­fect con­di­tions for women to lead. Women par­tic­i­pate; they play roles un­der very dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances. They have shown how brave they are.

“Peo­ple say women hold the knife on the sharp end, but all they get are com­pli­ments. They are not given lead­er­ship po­si­tions.

“I think that so­ci­ety has been very dis­hon­est in this re­gard be­cause you will find that men – even those less com­pe­tent than many of the women who have played lead­er­ship roles – are made lead­ers.

“I think we need to just say to our­selves: ‘It is time. Let us al­low for women to lead. Let us not be talk­ing about con­di­tions not yet be­ing right.’ When will they be right?”

Ear­lier this year, the ANC Women’s League an­nounced its pref­er­ence for Dlamini-Zuma in a con­tentious move, which is be­lieved to have bit­terly di­vided the league.

Some mem­bers be­lieve that Mbete, a for­mer sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the league, should have been backed, given her role as the ANC’s first fe­male na­tional chair­per­son. “I do not feel be­trayed,” said Mbete in re­sponse to the league’s de­ci­sion. “I was not hurt. A bit sur­prised – that I can say. But I don’t know whether it is my more than 40 years of be­ing in pol­i­tics that played a role. “I was sur­prised, but I did not feel per­son­ally be­trayed be­cause you never have ex­pec­ta­tions in this game – be­cause if you live on ex­pec­ta­tions, you will be hurt ev­ery day. You will die of a heart con­di­tion.

“If I feel be­trayed, I will be tense and die from a heart con­di­tion, so no, I do not feel be­trayed.”

Mbete voiced her dis­agree­ment with a pro­posal put for­ward at the ANC’s Na­tional Pol­icy Con­fer­ence this week – and en­dorsed by Zuma on Wed­nes­day – that who­ever loses at the party’s December elec­tive con­fer­ence should be ac­com­mo­dated by the win­ning fac­tion, for the sake of unity.

She in­sisted that even if the pro­posal gained trac­tion and was adopted in December, it would have to be parked for the next ANC elec­tive con­fer­ence in 2022.

“I can­not read­ily agree on the pro­posal to make the loser the deputy, be­cause I was hear­ing it for the first time. It makes sense, but I have not prop­erly thought it through. One has to en­gage more and think about it.”

“It can­not be some­thing that hap­pens at the 55th con­fer­ence [this year’s gath­er­ing].

“It would only hap­pen if by that time we had pro­cessed and en­gaged enough, and con­vinced one an­other and amended the Constitution – be­cause po­si­tions of the ANC and pol­icy amend­ments hap­pen af­ter quite a thor­ough process. “It is not some­thing we will do in December.” Mbete will look to win over the branches on the grounds of se­nior­ity, party unity and women’s is­sues.

“Unity for me is of high im­por­tance – unity not only in the ANC but in the coun­try as a whole,” she said.

“We have wit­nessed hor­rific and bar­baric vi­o­lent as­saults on women and chil­dren in re­cent times, with lit­tle re­course. I am will­ing to die fight­ing this can­cer­ous so­ci­etal ill un­til the bit­ter end.

“It is my de­sire to see all women, young and old, liv­ing in a so­ci­ety that al­lows them to be who­ever they choose to be.

“I long to see women de­fine them­selves on their own terms, as op­posed to liv­ing ac­cord­ing to the dic­tates of so­ci­ety and pa­tri­archy.”


Would you wel­come Baleka Mbete as South Africa’s pres­i­dent? Do you feel she has a fair chance in the elec­tion race? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word MBETE and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

I think we need to just say to our­selves: ‘It is time. Let us al­low for women to lead. Let us not be talk­ing about the con­di­tions not yet be­ing right.’ When will they be right?


UP FOR THE CHAL­LENGE ANC na­tional chair­per­son Baleka Mbete is throw­ing her hat in the pres­i­den­tial race

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