The campaigns for Jacob Zuma’s second term and for wholesale change in the ANC leadership are now firming up, with three weeks to go before the starting gun goes off in the most fractured succession battle in the party’s recent history. Behind the scenes lobbying is now in overdrive to settle on slates under the two respective banners. The pool of names of those in contention includes mostly strategic choices, with some wildcards and surprises in the mix. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
Kgalema Motlanthe seems to be the only person in the ruling party who still thinks that the ANC succession battle can be resolved cordially and that everyone can leave the Mangaung conference smiling. The reluctant presidential candidate remains the biggest headache for those campaigning for him to depose President Jacob Zuma as the ANC leader. With three weeks to go before the formal nominations process opens in the ANC, there is still no certainty that Motlanthe will run head to head against Zuma in December.
Motlanthe reportedly intimated recently to a faction lobbying for his election that he did not want to be associated with “slates” as they were a source of division. (The slates are lists of candidates for the top six positions in the ANC which are being proposed by the provinces and leagues in the ruling party.) Motlanthe has on several occasions condemned the use of slates at ANC elective conferences.
“The emergence of slates within our organisational culture and the processes represent the worst form of corruption of the spirit, character and vision of the organisation,” Motlanthe was quoted telling delegates at the ANC’s Limpopo conference last December.
“The time has come for all of us in the ANC to condemn the slate culture to the dustbin of history. Stealing away the voice of members through slates, buying of votes and treating the ordinary membership as voting fodder… serves no other purpose than to corrupt the organisation.”
In the past, he is also said to have told those lobbying for him that he will only stand for the position of ANC president if Zuma does not. This means he is hoping for a clean handover of power and not a messy showdown at Mangaung, as was the case at the 2007 Polokwane conference when Zuma faced off against Thabo Mbeki.
It is unlikely that Zuma will readily hand over that ANC presidency to Motlanthe unless both camps make a deal that would keep Zuma’s cohorts in the pound seats and a guarantee that he would see out his term as state president with a dignified exit. Such discussions are not yet on the table as Zuma’s camp, now calling itself the “national coalition”, still maintains that the balance of forces and delegate numbers at Mangaung are in its favour.
The “change coalition”, lobbying for Motlanthe, believes that with the right formula in their top six slate, they can pull together enough votes from all the provinces including KwaZulu-Natal, which up to now has been united behind Zuma’s second term bid. They have compiled a pool of names of ANC leaders to draw from, who could be shuffled around on the Motlanthe slate and who would have pull in the swing provinces and in Zuma’s strongholds.
These include Joel Netshitenzhe, Gwede Mantashe, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Mathews Phosa, Tokyo Sexwale, Thandi Modise, Paul Mashatile, Senzo Mchunu and Febe Potgieter-Gqubule. Support for Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s bid for the post of ANC secretary-general has waned, although the ANC Youth League is still firmly behind him. Netshitenzhe is widely respected as one of the few remaining intellectuals in the ANC and has been touted by Gauteng for the position of ANC secretary-general.
Some in the anti-Zuma camp believe Mantashe’s presence on their slate, possibly as national chairman, would appease the Eastern Cape, whose branches are divided between the two factions. Although Dlamini-Zuma seemed out of contention following her election as the chairwoman of the African Union Commission, strategists in the anti-Zuma camp have decided that the continental position does not rule her out from holding a senior post in the ANC, as it should not be viewed any differently to a government deployment.
Phosa, like Sexwale, has long been associated with the “Anything But Zuma” campaign. He could be useful to the slate by splitting support in his home province of Mpumalanga, which is firmly roped into Zuma’s corner by Premier David Mabuza. Mpumalanga has been a no-go zone for the anti-Zuma camp, who claim Mpumalanga is ruled by fear and that their supporters are intimidated from campaigning.
But on Sunday the ANC Youth League took the fight to Mpumalanga by holding a “cadre’s assembly” addressed by the league’s acting president Ronald Lamola, ANC deputy secretary general Thandi Modise and Limpopo Finance MEC David Masondo. Sexwale, who was also billed to speak, withdrew from the meeting after provincial leaders warned him not to come to a “factional” meeting. Last night it emerged that Mabuza’s lieutenants tried to prevent the meeting from taking place and that the venue had to be changed.
Lamola used the meeting to campaign for nationalisation and leadership change in the ANC. “The term ends comrades in Mangaung. We elected them in Polokwane there was no confusion, we said comrades we are giving you five years, the five years is ending and we must now be allowed to debate and discuss who must take over after Mangaung. When the ANC emerges from the congress in Mangaung is going to have a new leadership,” Lamola was quoted as saying by the SABC.
At an informal meeting of the “change coalition” in Sandton last week, attended by representatives from all provinces except the Northern Cape, it was provisionally agreed that Sexwale should be on their ticket as the candidate for deputy president, meaning he should give up his campaign to be president and back Motlanthe. The support for Sexwale came in return for his hard campaigning in the Free State and the Eastern Cape. It is believed that Sexwale has made significant inroads into Zuma strongholds.
Potgieter-Gqubule also appears on the Gauteng slate as a candidate for deputy secretary-general, but doesn’t have a strong constituency elsewhere. Modise would bring some support from the North West province, which is divided; the military veterans, and the ANC Women’s League, which is strongly behind Zuma. Gauteng is still determined to get Mashatile into the top six even though Motlanthe and Sexwale are already seen as their candidates.
Mchunu is the surprise candidate in the mix. He is from Zuma’s home province, where he serves as education MEC. Mchunu was always an ardent Zuma supporter and one of his strategists during his criminal trials. The anti-Zuma camp has been trying to draw him onside, but has up to now been cautious about including his name on their slate, as this would have isolated him from the KwaZulu-Natal leadership. However, the camp is desperate to break Zuma’s unanimous support in the province, and the only way to do that is by including a high profile candidate on their slate.
As Daily Maverick reported in June, axed National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele could prove to be Zuma’s nemesis in KwaZulu-Natal. Cele is extremely aggrieved by Zuma’s decision to fire him and has substantial influence in the province to lobby against the president. Cele has now been in meetings linked to the change coalition, and unlike others in KwaZulu-Natal opposed to Zuma’s second term, he is not easily intimidated by the president’s militant supporters in the province.
The pro-Zuma camp is now feeling the heat. The Sunday Tribune reported that the “national coalition” met in KwaZulu-Natal to strategise and step up their campaign in the face of the onslaught from the anti-Zuma lobby. The paper reported that lucrative state tenders were being used by the group as an “electoral carrot and intimidation tool”, with those contemplating voting against Zuma being reminded that they would lose their access to influence government tenders.
The “national coalition” reportedly includes KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize, Free State Premier Ace Magashule, Mpumalanga’s Mabuza and SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande. They want the status quo to remain, possibly with businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as their candidate for deputy president, should Motlanthe decide to run against Zuma. They are said to be trying to draw support from the Northern Cape by undertaking that charges against that province’s chairman, John Block, could be dropped in exchange for his support. In a corruption case linked to Block’s, charges against KZN heavyweights Peggy Nkonyeni and Mike Mabuyakhulu were recently withdrawn.
But what counts most in favour of the pro-Zuma camp at present remains the hesitancy of Motlanthe. It was reported yesterday that he has intimated that even if he stands as ANC president, he does not wish to be the candidate for state president in 2014. This is contrary to a decision taken at the Polokwane conference that whoever is ANC president should also rule the country in order that there not be two centres of power. This could prove to be extremely frustrating for his supporters, who either have to convince him to be state president or find another candidate who would be acceptable to all the constituencies and forces they are trying to bind together.
With an entire campaign built around an unenthusiastic candidate, the anti-Zuma camp can only go so far to push for Zuma’s removal. In a few weeks, they hope Motlanthe would put them out of their misery and formally accept their nomination.
Seldom in South Africa's political history has so much hinged on one man’s whim. DM
Photo: Then South African president-elect Jacob Zuma walks with South African President Kgalema Motlanthe outside parliament after Zuma was formally elected the country's next President in Cape Town, May 6, 2009. REUTERS/Nic Bothma