The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal is trying to be magnanimous, seeking to ensure that a big portion of the party doesn’t walk away from December’s National Conference as losers. But efforts to broker consensus among the provinces is not yielding agreement and with ‘forces of change’ showing signs of confusion, it means more good news for Jacob Zuma. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
If truth be told, there really could not have been a deal emerging from Monday’s meeting between the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal ANC. While the two are the most powerful provincial structures in the ruling party – KZN through its size and Gauteng through its influence – they could not have resolved the ANC leadership question.
A deal would mean that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe would remain second in charge and not challenge President Jacob Zuma for the ANC presidency at the party’s 53rd national conference in Mangaung in December. The obvious question is what KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s base, would offer in return. It cannot on its own decide to offer Motlanthe the state presidency in 2014 or guarantee that he would not be contested for the presidency at the next ANC conference in 2017.
Gauteng also went into the meeting half-cocked. It is not clear who it would be negotiating on behalf of, as its man Motlanthe has not said he is in the presidential race yet, let alone that he is willing to negotiate a deal over it. And Gauteng has further squandered its position as a powerbroker by showing indecisiveness in its own structures and having too many names in the pot for the six ANC leadership positions at this late stage.
As a dealmaker, Gauteng could only have lent influence to other provinces and the leagues if was certain about its slate. On Sunday, Gauteng’s Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) recommended to a general council meeting that Motlanthe be nominated as its candidate for president, but was unable to reach agreement on names for other major positions.
Tokyo Sexwale and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma were announced as candidates for deputy president, Joel Netshitenzhe and Gwede Mantashe for secretary general, and Thandi Modise and Naledi Pandor for national chairwoman. Dlamini-Zuma, Netshitenzhe and Pandor do not have widespread support in other provinces and ANC structures and they would be hard-sell candidates at this late stage.
By revealing that it is unable to decide on its six candidates, Gauteng has relinquished the opportunity bring others in the “forces for change” campaign on board to present a united front against pro-Zuma supporters. While those opposed to Zuma’s second term support Motlanthe, they all have different candidates for the other five positions, weakening their ability to take on the Zuma camp. It seems the “Anyone but Zuma” camp cannot agree on anyone but Motlanthe.
Some of Zuma’s lieutenants are already celebrating Gauteng’s disorientation as a sign that the opposition camp is flagging. One Zuma campaigner said Gauteng was in “serious disarray” and was going the same route as it did in 2007 when it backed Sexwale only to realise late in the game that it was a dud mission.
The campaigner said he expected all forces to maintain their hard-line positions during the nominations process, but that once this was complete it was possible that a no-contest agreement would be reached based on the balance of support. If there were a vote at Mangaung over the president and secretary-general positions, it would be “out of arrogance and the need to prove a point,” he said, claiming there was now overwhelming support for Zuma to serve a second term.
The leadership of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has met with its counterparts in the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape in order to avoid a bitter contest for positions at the Mangaung conference. Provincial Chairman Zweli Mkhize said while the nominations process is in motion, “KwaZulu-Natal is openly engaging in formal dialogues with several other provinces with like-minded or differing views”.
Responding to critics of the ANC in the province, Mkhize said in an article, “KwaZulu-Natal will constitute a constructive force for reason to seek consensus in both policy debates and in the election of leadership.
“KwaZulu-Natal learned that the trauma of unmanaged contest involving the topmost leadership may result in trauma within all levels in the party with significant repercussions in the support base and society in general. This means that there is no one in KwaZulu-Natal who has the appetite of another Polokwane type battle in Mangaung. This is no time for brinkmanship. There must be no blood on the floor and the integrity of the ANC must be preserved,” Mkhize said.
After a day-long meeting at Sibaya Casino, north of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng issued a statement saying in which they agreed that a conducive environment must be created within the ANC for branches and members to exercise their democratic rights to elect leaders of their choice. They said the ANC’s rank and file should discuss leadership in a “comradely manner without acrimony and tension”.
The party’s secretary in KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala, denied his province had tried to persuade Gauteng to drop Motlanthe for the presidency, saying the meeting had “not focused on names, but on the political approach”. It is obvious though that the two provinces could not make headway on the leadership question, meaning the prospect of a winner-takes-all ballot at Mangaung remains in the cards.
After losing big battles at regional conferences, the Zuma camp may now be celebrating the fact that the Eastern Cape has now come out in support of the president’s second term. The province wants to maintain the consistency in the presidency, deputy presidency, secretary general and national chairperson posts, ANC Eastern Cape spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said.
The Eastern Cape would withdraw its support for Motlanthe if he stood against Zuma. “If he (Motlanthe) is standing as president, we are prepared to agree on the deputy president being one of the most known businesspeople… Cyril Ramaphosa,” Qoboshiyane said.
“All our regions have pronounced, and taken the same decision… the majority of our regions agree,” he said.
As the province with the second-largest delegation attending the national conference, the Eastern Cape will have a significant impact on the final outcome. If branches confirm the provincial leadership’s stance, and the province turns out not have the substantial support for Motlanthe as earlier estimated, the game is certainly up for the “forces for change” lobby.
While a deal is off the table for now, there could be renewed negotiations between provinces at the end of the nominations process when all the chips are down and the balance of forces is clear. Judging by how defeat devastated the losing faction at Polokwane, there could be a late attempt to prevent a similar divisive end to the Mangaung conference.
But deal or no deal, there most certainly will be losers in the ANC’s battle for power. The biggest losers though are those outside the party and those who yearn for the ANC’s glory days. DM