On December 20, the ANC will conclude its national elective conference by electing its 14th president in its 105 years of existence. There are eight potential candidates to replace President Jacob Zuma and while some of them will take the race down to the wire, others are rank outsiders. Independent Media’s political team will profile each of the candidates, in no particular order, in the run-up. This week we profile, Baleka Mbete.
Background and political life:
Baleka Mmakota Mbete was born on September 24 1949 in Durban.
She spent her early years with her grandmother in the Northern Transvaal, now Limpopo, and Pretoria, but completed primary schooling in Durban. Mbete matriculated at Inanda Seminary in 1967.
She studied at Eshowe Training College and later Lovedale Teachers’ Training College in the Eastern Cape and went on to teach in Durban and Swaziland.
She went into exile in 1976 and worked for the ANC in various African cities, including Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Nairobi in Kenya, Gaborone in Botswana, Harare in Zimbabwe and Lusaka in Zambia.
She returned to South Africa from exile in June 1990 and was elected as secretary-general of the ANC Women’s League from 1991 to 1993.
In 1994, Mbete was elected as an ANC member of Parliament. She became National Assembly deputy speaker from 1996 to 2004.
She was also on the presidential panel during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s investigation into political killings during the apartheid era.
In 2008, Mbete was elected as deputy president during Kgalema Motlanthe’s tenure as president of the country. A year later, Zuma replaced her as deputy president.
She has held the position of ANC national chairperson from 2007 when President Jacob Zuma defeated Thabo Mbeki as party president at the elective conference in Polokwane. Mbeki was recalled as state president in 2008.
Mbete was elected as speaker of the National Assembly in 2014, a position she also previously held from 2004 to 2008.
She has presided over the eight motions of no confidence against Zuma, all of which failed. The last was held via secret ballot in August.
Mbete married poet and activist Keorapetse Kgositsile in 1978. Their marriage ended in 1992. In 2016 she tied the knot with Bloemfontein businessman Nape Khomo.
Mbete has said it would be “desirable” to have a commission of inquiry into all matters related to state capture.
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report recommended a judicial commission of inquiry probe the scale of state capture.
The Gupta family, perceived to be Zuma’s close allies, were at the centre of the report. The investigation into the capture of state-owned enterprises Eskom, Denel and Transnet led by the portfolio committee on public enterprise began on Tuesday.
In May, opposition parties in Parliament pleaded with Mbete to institute a full parliamentary inquiry following leaked Gupta e-mails that supported claims of state capture. The e-mails revealed how the Guptas allegedly lured senior government officials to take over departments and state-owned entities.
Radical economic transformation:
Mbete believes radical economic transformation is needed to correct the past exclusion of many Africans from the economy. She has also said economic activity is racially biased and that a few have conducted economic activity on most of the land because of racial patterns of possession. She believes there is an urgent need to de-racialise the economy.
In 1997, she was found to have received an improperly issued driver’s licence. She was also implicated in the Travelgate scandal, with more than 200 other parliamentarians. They were charged for abusing travel vouchers. She later paid back the costs of a trip to Liberia in 2006 to attend the inauguration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as president.
Role in previous elective conferences:
Mbete was part of Zuma’s inner circle at the Polokwane and Mangaung conferences. Zuma emerged victorious at both gatherings.
As ANC national chairperson, she will play a key role at the party’s elective conference in December.
She has been endorsed by a group of ANC members. She was up against six other candidates including two women, Lindiwe Sisulu, national executive member and minister of human settlements, and former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
If Mbete is elected, she will make history by becoming the first woman to lead the 105-year-old political party. She is seen as a strong Zuma ally but recently said she was not anybody’s person.