African National Congress (ANC) deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte has reportedly raised concerns over the risk of further splits within the ruling party ahead of its national conference later this year to elect new leadership.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Duarte said there was intense jostling for senior positions in the ANC to replace President Jacob Zuma as the party’s leader despite its national leadership forbidding members from actively campaigning for their preferred candidates ahead of the December conference.
“People are lobbying, there’s no doubt. Lobby groups are all over the country, big ones, small ones, bold ones, all of that is happening,” she told the business website.
Duarte said the concern was that the losing group could break away to form a new party and cut the ANC’s support base.
When former president Thabo Mbeki was defeated by Zuma at the party’s elective conference in 2007, he was later recalled as the country’s president, paving the way for the formation of the Congress of the People (Cope) by disgruntled ANC members who sided with him.
“Since 2007, every ANC conference has led to one or other split. There could be ‘a spoilers’ breakaway after this conference [54 national conference in December],” she said.
The deputy secretary-general also suggested that the ANC needed to manage its electoral contest better and consider allowing a limited time for candidates to campaign. She said some of these issues would be discussed at the party’s policy conference in June.
The race to lead Africa’s oldest liberation movement has been between frontrunners Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The two struggle veterans have gained the backing of a number of ANC structures and alliance partners, though some names have also been bandied about to take over from Zuma.