The African National Congress’ (ANC) leadership race is reportedly heating up in less than a month’s time as Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa takes his fight to his opponents in KwaZulu-Natal.
On Sunday the City Press reported that the ruling party’s biggest province, Kwazulu-Natal, has now become the battleground for the race between Ramaphosa and outgoing AU Commissioner Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has apparently enjoyed an early lead in the province.
The paper reported that high-level strategy meetings that include Ramaphosa’s key senior supporters in the party are said to have been planned for the days following the ANC’s birthday celebrations earlier this year in January.
Some of KwaZulu-Natal’s ANC “big guns” are reportedly increasingly lining up to back Ramaphosa.
The Deputy President, who’s received an endorsement for the presidency from the ANC’s biggest alliance partners, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party, this week give his strong indication that his ready for the contest in his speech commemorating former president Nelson Mandela.
He spoke frankly about some of the problems facing Africa’s oldest liberation movement such as patronage, corruption and the unrestrained scramble for positions and resources.
The involvement of ANC senior leaders such as treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, national executive committee (NEC) member Bheki Cele, former KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu and former eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo has apparently thrown the race for Zuma’s successor wide open, according to the paper.
On Saturday SACP general Secretary Blade Nzimande took a swipe at President Jacob Zuma during his address to the Young Communist League delegates in Soweto for failing to unite the tri-apartheid alliance and siding with factions.
“If you side with a faction, it is time to go – you are not fit to lead, especially when you are president of the ANC,” Nzimande said.
ALSO READ: Atul Gupta is SA’s richest black businessman
KwaZulu-Natal’s party membership strength has weakened and there are reportedly major fractures in the so-called “Premier League”, an informal group including of the premiers and ANC provincial chairpersons of the North West, Free State, and Mpumalanga, who reportedly want Dlamini-Zuma to succeed her ex-husband; could result in smaller provinces positioning themselves as the new kingmakers in the succession race
Ramaphosa’s supporter’s attempts to make inroads in KwaZulu-Natal are said to be targeted at breaking the back of Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign.
Even ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete has been apparently lobbying for support for her own bid for the presidency next year.
A KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial leader, speaking anonymously to the paper said Mchunu’s supporters would support Ramaphosa. He was proposed as the key man for Ramaphosa’s campaign because he would bring half of KwaZulu-Natal’s branches with him, according to lobbyists
“Do not be intimidated or fooled by those who are making a noise. The people of Nxumalo and Mchunu are clear. They make up 50% plus of branches, so it is a danger to discount them,” he said.
“It is a lie that KwaZulu-Natal is all for [Dlamini-Zuma]. It is a lie by [ANC Kwazulu-Natal chairperson Sihle] Zikalala and the ANC Youth League. The issue will be clear soon. Comrades are waiting for [the ANC’s birthday] on January 8 next year, then they will come through.” he added.
He also said there had been meetings in the province attended by some ANC veterans to discuss Ramaphosa’s candidature.
“This … is about who can save the ANC and who is the more experienced leader; who understands the administration and who will bring back an ANC that is morally acceptable and not fraught with factions.”
ANC Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile and Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, and Nzimande will apparently also come out and back Ramaphosa.