With less than five weeks to go before ANC delegates gather at the Nasrec Expo Convention Centre in Johannesburg to elect a new leadership for the party, candidates are campaigning hard to drum up support from branches which are in the final stages of nominating preferred candidates.
For Mkhize, who has been ranked third in a seven-way race for those eyeing the top position, the canvassing for votes will happen until minutes before delegates cast their votes.
“We are looking forward to the conference there are a number of challenges and a lot of our branches are going through meetings that are like mini-elections. We are hoping to resolve all disputes before conference begins. There may be delays here and there the legal challenges in about three or four provinces, we have to find ways to manage all that.
“I believe we have to restore credibility to the ANC and those of us, myself included, who put our hands up to be considered for leadership positions must be prepared to lead. For me, that means we need to focus on building the kind of leadership collective that will be able to focus on forward movement, rather than on who is or is not president,” he said.
“I have moved around talking to people about unity. I believe it's an imperative issue for the ANC, not just for the ANC as an organisation but for South Africa as a whole, because the repercussions of internal conflict impact directly on the economy of the country and on investor confidence. When I confirmed my willingness to continue to serve in the ANC in all capacities, it was to restore confidence.
“The upcoming conference will be a gathering of branches, not in the interest of leaders but of South Africans at large. Unless the branches are left to participate freely without being coerced to endorse decisions or leadership preferences imposed upon them by those who have their own motives, if we deny people legitimate membership through gatekeeping and other methods of manipulation, the ANC ceases to be the people’s party,” he added.
Mkhize, who at one time was eyed as a suitable candidate for deputy president on Cyril Ramaphosa’s team, has denounced slate politics as denying capable leaders the chance to lead just because they belong to a certain team.
Ramaphosa was on the receiving end of a backlash earlier this week for announcing his running mates, which included national executive committee member Naledi Pandor.
“I have expressed my regret for the role I played as we were leading in the creation of slate politics in Polokwane. It will be an opportunity missed if we don’t use the conference to dismantle slate politics and create an environment where the leadership contests is a process to pick the best and, even if we disagree, capacity should determine who goes into leadership positions,” he said.
“As we go into conference I want to be the leader who will be part of the collective that will transform our society and address issues of concern, poverty, unemployment, and clean governance. This must be the rule, and corruption the exception.
“The issue of land needs to be addressed. There is a lot that needs to be done to return land to our people in terms of what we have in the country and to support those who have been given land, like emerging farmers. This is one issue that will always be raised among us,” Mkhize added.
“Those of us who are looking to be part of leadership must be able to listen and take action to make sure there is efficiency.
“The integrity of leadership and selflessness must always be at the core of the leaders who lead to ensure that we are able to maintain the confidence of our people.”