Battle for ANC’s soul shifts to provinces
Scene set for another faction-driven five-year term for ruling party
followed by headlines predicting the removal of Marshoff and recently re-elected Limpopo premier Sello Moloto.
The question is: How serious is the potential fallout? Early indications are that the attempts by Luthuli House to manage the post-Polokwane tensions and dissatisfaction that have intensified in the provinces since Mbeki’s recall aren’t succeeding, says University of Johannesburg political analyst Adam Habib. He says the ANC leadership is going to have to make far “more overt” overtures to heal the rifts or risk the divisions taking on a momentum of their own.
Other political analysts, such centres of power – Mbeki leading government and Zuma leading the party – a “sense of coherence” will now start to prevail.
True, but the situation may well have spiralled out of the control of one centre of power. For example, there’s little doubt NEC members recently deployed to the Western Cape to resolve bitter infighting ahead of the provincial party conference underestimated the situation in the province. Once the NEC was satisfied its interventions had been sufficient for the provincial conference to take place, it gave the nod for its branch representatives to gather at the Cape Town Convention Centre to vote for a AS LETTERS OF resignation from high profile national and provincial ANC leaders are making it very clear just what’s thought of the party’s national executive committee’s (NEC’s) decision to recall former President Thabo Mbeki, party headquarters Luthuli House has deployed NEC members throughout South Africa’s nine provinces to explain the recall decision in what is widely interpreted as an escalating battle for the soul of the party ahead of next year’s election.
In the clearest sign yet of an inner party battle, several senior Mbeki acolytes have either stepped down from prime provincial government positions or are being pressured out of power by the new ANC leadership. While sympathisers of Mbeki promise to provide an “alternative voice” (inside the party) their opponents say they’re pseudo-politicians who, without a following, benefited personally from Mbeki’s largesse.
It’s too soon to tell whether there’s any truth to that assertion. What’s clear is that repeated calls for unity from Luthuli House and from newly elected President Kgalema Motlanthe provide a thin veneer of civility for a dirty fight. In fact, NEC members have privately conceded there’s been a much wider set of high profile resignations than anticipated. And while the provincial structures of the ANC are now being urged to leave premiers (who’ve not yet been axed) in place until the 2009 election, newly elected provincial leaders are having none of it. The Free State leadership is, contrary to Luthuli House’s wishes, insistent on removing the provincial premier, Beatrice Marshoff.
After all, the ANC leadership did start the ball rolling by removing Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool. Eastern Cape premier Nosimo Balindlela followed. Then the news that Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa had tendered his resignation – citing the “unjust” way Mbeki had been recalled – was as Sipho Seepe, argue the resignations and removal of certain leaders is nothing more than the exit of people who were “made” by Mbeki – not politicians with any “real” support. “Take former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. She didn’t even manage to get on to the Women’s League list,” says Seepe. He says without the two new provincial leadership.
Unlike all the other provincial conferences, there was no violence, headline-grabbing commotions or claims of intimidation. However, 86 of the 205 branches boycotted the conference completely. They held their own conference in Langa. That group, which supported Lerumo Kalako (an ally of Mbeki and ousted provincial leader James Ngculu) for provincial chairman, alleged that pre-conference processes had deliberately excluded them and had been manipulated so that ANC provincial secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha (pro-ANC party president Jacob Zuma) could become provincial chairman.
Once elected, Skwatsha’s provincial executive moved swiftly to deal with the dissent. The move seemed to sow rather than contain dissent and remained unresolved at the time of writing.
Fact is, even though the Western Cape is different to SA’s other provinces – demographically and politically – current divisions are a reflection of the same divisions in other provinces.
While Habib and Seepe agree the ANC isn’t about to split due to such divisions, Seepe doesn’t discount deep rifts in a battle for the soul of the party. “They (Mbeki and his allies) would rather find a way of coming back – orchestrating a way to claim back the party they see as theirs,” says Seepe. He says that’s likely to happen at branch and provincial level. If that’s indeed the case, the scene is set for another faction-driven five-year term for the ruling party.
Unity calls not succeeding. Adam Habib No real support for Mbeki. Sipho Seepe