Paraphernalia said to be produced for Baleka Mbete.
Johannesburg – ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete has called on those behind a “malicious campaign” to discredit her to stop using her name for their “opportunistic intentions”.

This comes after electronic posters and various items of clothing with her image surfaced on digital platforms on Tuesday, endorsing her bid to become the next ANC leader when President Jacob Zuma steps down in December.

A T-shirt with the words “BM17”, “Baleka Mbete”, and “Incoming president” are among the paraphernalia purported to be produced by Mbete’s camp ahead of the national elective conference.

But she has denied any involvement, saying these were “mischievous tactics” that were designed to tarnish her reputation in the eyes of ANC members and the public.

“Such acts are clearly the work of so-called lobbyists seeking to erode unity within the organisation and divide the movement by pitting comrade against comrade,” Mbete said in a statement released by the ANC on Tuesday night.

The ANC said Mbete’s position was in line with the ruling party’s directive that “members of the ANC, its structures and (leagues) must desist from divisive behaviour which undermines the unity and cohesion of the ANC towards the 54th national conference and beyond”.

The decision was taken by the ANC’s national working committee after various leaders spoke openly about who they preferred to succeed Zuma as the party's next president.

Mbete has said she was surprised by the statement from the ANC Women’s League, on the eve of the party's January 8 statement, endorsing AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma as Zuma's successor.

Mbete has also been quoted as saying she was available for the ANC's top job, and that she had been approached by various structures to run for the presidency. After agonising over the matter, she had decided to make herself available.

She has also said the ANC has found it difficult to control the succession debate.

Besides Mbete and Dlamini Zuma, another contender for the presidency is Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who enjoys the support of Cosatu and the SACP.

On Monday, EFF leader Julius Malema weighed in on the ANC succession race, saying Dlamini Zuma would be president if Zuma wanted her to be. But Malema warned that if Dlamini Zuma won, it would be to protect her ex-husband from facing corruption charges.

@luyolomkentane

Political Bureau