ANC faces first test of unity

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jacob zuma dec 20 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS The so-called "Forces of Change" which had resisted ANC president Jacob Zuma's re-election were voted out of the party's national executive committee. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Bloemfontein - The outcome of elections for the 80 additional members of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) will be scrutinised to see whether delegates heeded President Jacob Zuma’s call for unity or took revenge on those who backed the losing side in the leadership battle.

For the first time, half of those on the new NEC must be women.

With slates having ruled elections for the top six positions – reflected in the 75:25 split in the percentage of votes for the Zuma slate and for the challengers – the new NEC ought to reflect a similar ratio, with some of the losers also having been elected to the ANC’s key decision-making body.

But delegates waiting to vote for the NEC on Wednesday were perusing and comparing a flurry of lists of 80 names to be chosen from among the 295 nominees on the ballot paper.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was not the only leader to decline nomination to the NEC.

SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin said he had decided to decline because he was “overstretched” – he is also Deputy Minister of Public Works.

Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj also stepped aside, as did National Union of Mineworkers’ leader Frans Baleni and National Union of Metalworkers of SA general secretary Irvin Jim.

Controversial Northern Cape leader John Block and KwaZulu-Natal leader Senzo Mchunu also declined, while Planning Minister Trevor Manuel announced his decision to do so before the conference began.

Soon after voting started just after 8am, the first 700 voters had to be recalled when it was discovered there were errors on the ballot paper.

The party’s internal electoral commission said one candidate’s name had been omitted, another’s was spelled incorrectly and one name was duplicated.

“These issues were brought to the attention of the electoral commission by the voting delegates,” it said in a statement. The ballot paper was corrected and reprinted.

“Fortunately the majority of the voting delegates who cast their votes on the initial ballot paper returned,” the commission said, adding that there had been no “significant” delay.

During nominations for the NEC on Tuesday, delegates made it clear who they favoured, by cheering or booing when the candidates’ names were called out.

There were huge cheers for, among others, Zuma lobbyists Pule Mabe, Young Communists League of SA leader Buti Manamela, ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu and Philly Mapulane, who was elected treasurer of the ANC in North West last year after being sacked in 2010 as Madibeng municipal manager for gross misconduct, bribery and corruption.

Most members of the cabinet were nominated, including Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who has not been an NEC member before.

But the biggest cheers were reserved for ministers – Aaron Motsoaledi (Health), Nathi Mthethwa (Police), Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (International Relations), Naledi Pandor (Home Affairs) and Ebrahim Patel (Economic Development).

ANC policy expert Joel Netshitenzhe’s name also drew roars of approval.

But the name of Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale – who endorsed Motlanthe’s presidential challenge early on – drew boos, as did those of former National Youth Development Agency chairman Andile Lungisa, ANC Youth League spokeswoman Magdalene Moonsamy and former Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo.

Silence greeted the name of ANC Veterans League president Sandi Sejake, who in July came under attack from ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe for making comments critical of Zuma.

Speaking on SAfm on Wednesday, political analyst Professor Steven Friedman said the practice of “freezing people out” who had lost in elections had been a problem for the ANC in the five years since its Polokwane conference. It would create difficulties for the next five years if it continued, he said.

The names of the new NEC will be announced on Wednesday, the final day of the conference.

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