At the ANC national policy conference at Nasrec, KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala proposed a compromise deal which would see any one of the two presidential candidates becoming deputy president should he or she lose to the other in the race for the top spot.
This, Zikalala believes, would prevent a bloodbath and a possible split after the party’s elective conference in December.
Independent Media learnt that in one of the closed commissions Zuma expressed support for the arrangement, the basis for trying to mend the fissures within the party that arise out of contestation.
“In our commission, it was only Zikalala and Zuma who articulated it. Other people just ignored it. It’s a new proposal, which we obviously need to consult widely on,” said a source, who asked to remain anonymous.
Another source confirmed Zuma’s support for the proposed arrangement. “He said people don’t sleep these days (and) spend sleepless nights lobbying (for positions). He even said it would be good if it (the proposal) could be replicated at lower levels.”
However, some of the influential Zuma supporters do not agree with the possible arrangement, which may signify cracks within the camp.
ANC Youth League president Collin Maine said he felt the move would not pass the test of the ANC constitution, which allows for every position in the top six to be contested.
“It means that if there are 10 candidates, and the other one gets 12 votes and others each get seven votes are we then going to have all of them as deputy presidents,” said Maine.
The secretary of the league in KwaZulu-Natal, Thanduxolo Sabelo, said the league still stands by its position that Mpumalanga Premier and ANC provincial chairperson, David Mabuza, should be the next deputy president.
Uniting the ANC should not be based on who gets elected to certain positions, he said.
“If you are not elected in the ANC, the culture of the ANC says you must then be able to support the leadership that has been elected."
“Unity of the party must be the unity of purpose. You cannot be united by positions. We must be united by programmes, which we are here to discuss today,” he said.
However, eThekwini region secretary Bheki Ntuli said the ANC’s biggest region was fully behind the proposal.
“The situation whereby we have our own top six and others have their own top six leads to breakaways after conferences. We should have a system that would allow the loser to be accommodated as the deputy president and the deputy secretary-general,” said Ntuli.
Mdumiseni Ntuli, the spokesperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, said the proposals were meant to destroy slate politics. He agreed that it would mean changing the way in which voting happens.
A delegate said some viewed the proposal as a sign that KwaZulu-Natal “is panicking and now they just want to secure Dlamini Zuma’s future in the Presidency”.
A member of the KwaZulu-Natal PEC said the province realised that while it was powerful it cannot afford to be arrogant or overstate its influence. “Even when the small provinces come to us with proposals, we will engage with them and adopt those positions if it makes sense”, another source added.
ANC Northern Cape chairperson Zamani Saul also slammed the KwaZulu-Natal proposal, asserting that what the province was trying to achieve “was leadership through arrangement”.
Saul said his province still backed the party’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa “because it is a matter of principle; since 1956, all presidents of the ANC” had been deputy presidents before.
Sabelo, however, dismissed claims that Zuma was losing support. “You can see some of their (anti-Zuma camps’) chief lobbyists - you can see they are walking defeated. You can see that is a defeated walk. Look at President Zuma, when that man walks you see confidence that is a man in charge."
Eastern Cape provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane has backed the proposal. “It’s a practical proposal when we are confronted with slates. Slates are serving individuals rather than the ANC. You can’t elect a good leader because you are on a wrong slate,” said Mabuyane.
“This is a concrete proposal that seeks to deal with slates. As we continue with caucuses we will discuss the proposal,” he said. The branches of the ANC would have to back the proposal to foster unity in the ANC. He said ANC members cannot be enemies against each other because of positions.