Friday’s Mail & Guardian lead article has reported on the fact that former deputy president and interim president of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, has a strong chance of making a political comeback in 2017, due mainly to factionalism in the ANC.
He is being touted as a possible “compromise candidate” to become the ANC president and unite the two big factions in the ruling party, one of which is supporting current deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, the other Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the outgoing African Union Commission chairperson.
The “bitter antagonism between these two groups seems to have opened the door to other candidates”, writes Dineo Bendile, with Motlanthe being “the first to emerge”.
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The report also references the fact that Motlanthe appeared to have the support of 70% of the 135 branches last year in Johannesburg as a candidate to succeed President Jacob Zuma.
Motlanthe was roundly defeated by Zuma when he stood for the ANC’s presidency in 2012, but Zuma’s popularity has dropped massively since then in the wake of numerous scandals that have dogged his presidency.
No such scandals have tainted Motlanthe, and he “can unite both factions because he’s not affiliated with any one of the two”, according to Sasabona Manganye, a senior ANC activist in Johannesburg quoted by the M&G.
Motlanthe has been in the political wilderness to some extent, with the party announcing he would become the head of the ANC’s political school after he announced his resignation from government and parliament in 2014, alongside outgoing national planning minister Trevor Manuel.
The report also mentions that there is some support for fringe candidate ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize. This is reportedly being led by “a KwaZulu-Natal cohort led by provincial ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala”.
However, the report continues, if either of these men has ambitions to take the reins of the republic, they had best make their intentions clear soon, and this weekend’s 105th birthday celebrations may be the perfect time to test the waters further.