Former ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe has been identified as a crucial dark horse in an attempt to break the impasse in the fierce battle to secure the top spot in the upcoming party national elective conference.
This as some party diehards have suggested that, to deal with the pending logjam regarding who of the seven presidential hopefuls could qualify as a unifying figure in December, an untainted leader with no alignment to any of the existing factions should be identified.
They said Motlanthe, who is not in the running, was an ideal candidate to unify the party and the country in general and had the potential to restore party dignity and prevent it from losing the 2019 general elections.
Yesterday, Motlanthe neither confirmed nor denied whether he would accept if approached by branches on the conference floor to avail himself as a compromise candidate.
Some suggested he was the best choice as an impasse breaker because both sides have high regard for him. They said he was free of scandal and he had already tasted the presidency when he became the country’s leader when Thabo Mbeki was recalled by the ANC prior to Jacob Zuma’s installation.
But Motlanthe, in an interview with Saturday Citizen in Johannesburg yesterday, played down the suggestion, saying “it had no basis”.
He wants all leaders to go through a democratic process of nomination and election at conference.
“No, no, there is no basis for that at all. There has to be procedures. Everybody must be elected, the members must elect, members must nominate. The main thing is the elections are an instrument for strengthening the organisation, not for dividing or weakening it,” Motlanthe said.
Observers say none of the seven candidates was unaffected by factionalism, including their previous and current contributions to the tensions.
There is also fear that the current contest was marred by tribalism, a factor the ANC has despised throughout its 105-year history.
Tribalism reared its ugly head within the party prior to the 2007 ANC Polokwane conference when the Jacob Zuma campaign was run on the basis of him being a Zulu and calls for the Xhosas to give way to others.
This was clearly a reference to the fact that Xhosas Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki had been in charge since 1994.
Clearly now, others within the party, albeit subtly, have been calling for the Zulus to move over and allow the Vendas to rule, a reference to Ramaphosa.
But Motlanthe, although he is a Pedi from Limpopo and lived in Gauteng, has never been associated with tribal tensions.
A leading ANC member said each of the seven presidential candidates, including party treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, who is touted as a Zuma’s secret weapon as his alternate candidate, were compromised by their closeness, or acrimony, towards the party troublemaker, Zuma.
Political analyst Andre Duvenhage said it should not be surprising that the Motlanthe name was coming to the fore as he was long rumoured to be a hidden candidate in the race.
“According to my sources, Motlanthe was part of the contest since about a year ago but he was advised to stay away until the right time,” said Duvenhage.
The strategy was for Motlanthe to emerge at the last minute as an answer to the problems of an increasingly disinterested party, untouched by the leadership conflict, something that would help him to appeal to both camps as an ideal unifier.
However, the analyst said he feared there was little room for Motlanthe at this point.
“There is a bit of momentum behind Zweli Mkhize. Remember, we are entering a phase where the power bases are being defined towards December,” he said. – email@example.com