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Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale looks set to take a third bite at the ANC leadership cherry when party delegates gather in Mangaung later this year to decide whether or not to grant president Jacob Zuma a second term as ANC leader – and by implication as president of the country after national elections in 2014.
Sexwale, whose name tops at least one “election slate” doing the rounds in provinces, failed twice before – in 1998 and 2007 – to claim the most powerful political job in the country after those campaigns faltered at the starting gates.
The Sunday Times reported that Sexwale’s latest presidential bid was well and truly under way. This follows the distribution of an election slate with his name at the top, along with that of secretary general Gwede Mantashe as ANC deputy president.
Other names on the slate include: Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula to take over from Mantashe as secretary general; KwaZulu-Natal education MEC Senzo Mchunu to replace North West premier Thandi Modise as deputy secretary general; Modise to replace former National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete as national chairwoman; and for Arts and Culture Minister and ANC Gauteng leader Paul Mashatile to replace Mathews Phosa as treasurer-general.
Sexwale’s reported bid comes as Zuma’s own campaign for a second term received a significant boost in KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday.
The party’s provincial conference – attended by Zuma and Sexwale – re-elected provincial leader and known Zuma backer Zweli Mkhize for another term.
With more than 250 000 members, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal will supply about a quarter of all voting delegates to the Mangaung conference. Mkhize’s re-election is thus seen as a firm boost to Zuma’s own chances for re-election in December.
Speaking at the conference on Friday, Zuma urged his home province to lead discussions aimed at unifying the party before the December conference. He also cautioned members against becoming “arrogant” about their numerical advantage over other provinces.
“You must behave in a manner that is not factional, but that seeks to unite all forces behind a common agenda of rebuilding the ANC.
“Your behaviour should be devoid of any sense of arrogance because of your (numerical) strength – an attitude that says you have the numbers and therefore those without numbers are less important. Don’t behave in that way,” Zuma said.
Those pushing for Zuma to be ousted appear to be divided between Sexwale and deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe as candidates to possibly replace him.
The beleaguered ANC Youth League has openly backed Motlanthe for the position, but the recent expulsion of former ANCYL leader and Zuma nemesis Julius Malema has raised its own set of problems for the league. Not least of these is the ongoing and increasingly acrimonious battle over who will replace Malema.
For the time being, these developments appear to have placed the league on the back foot in the succession debate.
In KwaZulu-Natal, for instance, the provincial party leadership has continued to recognise the ANC Youth League provincial executive committee that Malema axed before his own ejection from the ANC and the league.
Nevertheless, the youth league slate is said to exclude Sexwale to avoid accusations of being “bought” by the business tycoon. Sexwale, founder of Mvelaphanda Holdings – with a significant stake in the South African mining sector – has assisted the youth league financially.
This has prompted SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande to suggest that the league’s calls for the nationalisation of mines had less to do with addressing economic imbalances and more with bailing out ailing BEE firms such as Mvelaphanda.
However, Sexwale is known to have also bailed out ANC offices that were struggling to pay their bills.
The youth league slate makes no mention of who it would like to see in the number two spot of ANC deputy president – currently held by Motlanthe.
A third slate being put together by people claiming to be supporters of Sexwale and Motlanthe suggests an alternative solution: nominating Motlanthe for party leader and Sexwale as his deputy this year, thereby placing Sexwale in a good position to take over in 2017.