Seen as the dark horse in the African National Congress (ANC) presidential race, current treasurer-general of the African National Congress, Zweli Mkhize, has hopes of replacing Jacob Zuma at the helm.
Seen by some as a possible option for a so-called unity ticket in the ruling party, Mkhize has in the last few months called for the expeditious setting up commission of inquiry on State Capture, for radical economic transformation to benefit the majority of South Africans and said that he was optimistic that ANC’s issues would be fixed and the tripartite alliance which also features the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) will emerge stronger after the ANC’s national elective conference in December.
Mkhize, commenting on the upcoming ANC national conference in Johannesburg, said that ANC acknowledged its weaknesses which included divisions within the party, factionalism, and the manipulation of the organisation’s structures.
In July, he said that the only way of resolving the challenges was to go into robust engagements and to leave no stone unturned.
Mkhize — who has been ranked third for those eyeing to take over the reigns from Zuma — was initially eyed as a suitable candidate as Ramaphosa’s deputy president.
He has been vocal about the the number of challenges the ruling party faces going into the conference and said that the party hoped to resolve all disputes before conference starts.
The credibility of the ANC needed to be restored and the incoming leadership must be prepared to lead, he said, as he campaigned for unity.
According to reports, Mkhize has been winning hearts and minds of ANC branch members in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal. Some contend the dark horses could be viewed as a “compromise candidate” as divisions are being created in the ruling party betwenn Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma supporters.
Mkhize has thus far had scant support in his home province, where he once served as premier and provincial ANC chairman. Willowfontein falls under the party’s Moses Mabhida region in the Pietermaritzburg area.
Mkhize, 61, a medical doctor and politician, was born in Willowfontein, Pietermaritzburg, on February 2, 1956. In 1987, he graduated with an MBChB degree from the University of Natal (now University of KwaZulu-Natal) and the following year, Mkhize did his internship at McCords Hospital in Durban before being employed at Edendale Hospital in his hometown of Pietermaritzburg.
According to the ruling party, Mkhize has played a “pivotal role in the process leading towards the establishment of a democratic government”.
He went into exile in 1986 and continued with his medical practices in both Swaziland and Zimbabwe, before returning to South Africa in 1991 to work at Themba Hospital in the then Eastern Transvaal (Gauteng).
He eventually started his private practice in Pietermaritzburg later in 1991.
Chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal since 2009, Mkhize served as a member of the ANC’s National Health Secretariat — the structure that was tasked with the responsibility of developing the country’s health policy — between 1991 and 1994. He also co-founded the Regional Health Forum and became a member of the National Health Forum.
He served as the KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson from 2008 and was also the chairperson of the 2010 Soccer World Cup Political Oversight Committee between 2006 and 2010.
No stranger to politics, Mkhize’s previous appointments include KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Finance and Economic Development from 2004 to 2009; chairperson of the ANC’s National Education and Health Sub-Committee; leader of Government Business in KwaZulu-Natal between 2004 and 2009; MEC for Health in KwaZulu-Natal from 1994 to 2004; and Premier of the KwaZulu-Natal Province from 2009 to 2013.
In 2012, at the ANC’s 53rd National Conference in Mangaung, he was elected into his current position as the treasurer general of the ruling party. He stepped down as KwaZulu-Natal premier in 2013 amidst speculation that a powerful ANC group in the province was working hard to remove him to ensure it controls provincial government resources.
At the time he said that his tasks as treasurer general prompted the decision.
Mkhize is married to Dr May Mashego-Mkhize.