Marianne Merten, Baldwin Ndaba and Babalo Ndenze
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s chances of a second term were boosted in the numbers game for the Mangaung leadership battle as ANC provinces finalised their nominations conferences yesterday – but there is no agreement on who should be his deputy.
Drama and logistical nightmares marred the process right on yesterday’s deadline as the Western Cape, Northern Cape, Limpopo and North-West failed to get their nominations conferences under way until late in the afternoon, and the Eastern Cape’s planned two-day conference was reduced to just yesterday.
In the North-West, where police are investigating attempted murder charges after ANC provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge was shot at in the early hours of yesterday, senior ANC national executive committee (NEC) members had to resolve a stalemate over two rival conference venues.
By late yesterday Zuma had received unanimous backing in the Free State, which will send 324 delegates to Mangaung, while in Mpumalanga he trumped with 427 votes the 17 that went to his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe.
The Northern Cape vote was expected go Zuma’s way a week after KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC’s largest province with 974 delegates, announced its unanimous choice of Zuma for president.
The Kimberly venue yesterday evening was dominated by “Phinda JZ [Return Jacob Zuma]” T-shirts, while provincial ANC chairman John Block greeted delegates with a “Viva, President Jacob Zuma! Viva!”
That means Zuma could already have 1 991 votes pencilled in, including the 45 votes each from the ANC women’s and veterans’ leagues, leaving him just 260 votes short of a winning margin for Mangaung.
These votes could easily come partly from the pro-second term provincial executives of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpuma-langa, Free State, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape, which, with 20 votes each, would contribute 80.
Zuma is also expected to pick up 173 votes from branches in Gauteng, even though its provincial nominations conference came out for Motlanthe yesterday, and from the Eastern Cape, where both Zuma and Motlanthe were nominated for president as voting got under way yesterday evening. Motlanthe has also been nominated as deputy president, alongside businessman Cyril Ramaphosa and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale.
At around 6.30pm yesterday, the Eastern Cape nominations conference at Fort Hare University in Alice agreed to allow additional delegates from certain regions, a highly unusual act for such a conference.
It was not clear whether this was an attempt to counter the OR Tambo region’s pronouncement in favour of Motlanthe as president made earlier this week.
While provincial, or even regional, candidate pronouncements are part of the nominations process – a type of filter to reflect who is being nominated for what position – and can be used as a weathervane, the final outcome will emerge only when delegates from ANC branches cast their secret ballots at Mangaung. They are not obliged to follow their provinces’ choices.
Throwing a spanner in the wheel of the pro-Zuma camp is that there is no agreement on his deputy.
While KwaZulu-Natal endorsed Ramaphosa with 841 votes against 16 for Motlanthe and Mpumalanga gave Ramaphosa 415 votes against seven for Motlanthe, the Free State nominated Baleka Mbete as deputy with 191 votes against Ramaphosa’s 48, and the Northern Cape is set to back Motlanthe.
Gauteng has bucked the trend by endorsing Motlanthe for the top ANC post with 238 votes against Zuma’s 173, Sexwale as deputy president and incumbent secretary-general Gwede Mantashe to retain his post.
Limpopo is set to follow suit, according to a senior ANC official, even though the provincial nominations conference was expected to go through the night as registration was finalised only at around 6pm.
Limpopo is set to back Motlanthe for president, Sexwale as his deputy and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula as secretary-general, with Mathews Phosa retaining the treasurer’s post and Thenjiwe Mtintso as chairwoman.
The ANC Youth League, which like the other leagues carries 45 votes, is backing Motlanthe, with Phosa as his deputy, Mbalula as secretary-general and Mtintso as his deputy, with Thandi Modise as chairwoman and Sexwale as treasurer.
Motlanthe told foreign correspondents yesterday he was still “agonising” about whether to run against Zuma.
“The question will be answered once it’s posed by the right body,” he said when urged to indicate whether he intended to run.
“I may not even be nominated for all you know, because the people who are making these announcements are not responsible for the process. They are doing so merely with the aim of influencing the process.”
No doubt his lobby will do its number-crunching. However, Motlanthe now faces the possibility of being left out completely – if Ramaphosa accepts the deputy president nomination.
Numbers so far suggest he would be able to carry the day, even if the Northern Cape, and possibly the Eastern Cape, have opened a window of opportunity for Motlanthe to stay on as deputy.
Cosatu this week warned of the negative long-term impact on the ANC’s unity if Motlanthe was dropped from among the top six officials.
Horse-trading is expected not only on this count, but also over nominations for the ANC NEC.
Until the Constitutional Court rules on a challenge to the Free State ANC conference, uncertainty hangs over that province, which finished its nominations just after 8am yesterday.
However, several senior ANC members the Saturday Star spoke to indicated their confidence that the challenge would be dismissed.
At worst, they said, the Free State ANC provincial executive could be excluded, but not the branches.
Additional reporting by Piet Rampedi, Solly Maphumulo, African Eye News Service