ANC Watch

Will ’sick’ ANC be able to hold elective conference?

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The African National Congress is so sick it might not be able to hold an elective conference in December to elect a successor to President Jacob Zuma.

This is the joint implication of statements by two members of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) this past weekend. It comes at a time when overlapping, and at times clashing, strategies of factions supporting the almost record number of candidates for the party’s leadership position, has the party teetering on the brink of total chaos.

There are now eight candidates in the field. Besides the – at this stage a least – two assumed front runners, deputy-president Cyril Ramaphosa and ex-minister and -African Union chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ), the candidates are: Mathews Phosa, Lindiwe Sisulu, Jeff Radebe, Zweli Mkhize, David Mabuza, and Baleka Mbete.

The only time in history when more candidates were competing for the ANC leadership, happened six and a half decades ago, in 1952, when there were ten contenders.

The secretary general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, on Friday described this situation as “sick.” At another occasion, NEC member Bheki Cele, claimed there is a plot afoot to remove Cyril Ramaphosa and create enough chaos in order for the elective conference not to go ahead.

Cele, speaking at a Shop Stewards’ Council meeting, flanked by the SACP's Blade Nzimande, who is rumoured to be replaced as minister of Higher Education by NDZ, and Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini, said anyone who denies that there are divisions in the governing party would be lying to themselves.

 Conspiracy accusations all-over

In the meantime, Ramaphosa who has been the target of a smear campaign about alleged extramarital affairs, in turn said ANC members should not be resorting to “dirty tricks” or violence to hurt one another.

Some have also questioned the timing of the “leaking” of Ramaphosa’s personal e-mails to discredit him.

As the party confirmed that NDZ will be returning to parliament as a member, reports have it that her close supporters in the party’s structures claimed she is on her way back to the cabinet to pave her way to take over the party leadership. It will also make it easier for her ex-husband, President Zuma, to retire early after the December conference.

According to one report, a NDZ insider said this was “the plan all along”, adding that a serious shake-up of the ANC’s parliamentary caucus will soon follow, to get rid of Ramaphosa supporters, including the outspoken ANC chief whip, Jackson Mthembu.

A senior ANC member, and Zuma loyalist, added that the resignation of former deputy minister of higher education Mduduzi Manana, facing charges for a night club assault on a woman, had provided the opportunity for a reshuffle.

In the meantime, Mthembu, who is also a member of the NEC, said he was unaware of any threat to his position, but if the ANC’s national executive committee decided to remove him, he would accept it. He however, in what could be a face saving move, since announced that he is considering quitting national politics after the party's December elective conference.

He also described the mood in the parliamentary caucus of the party as “toxic,” saying it was one of the issues that would require urgent attention from the new leadership.

Over the weekend, 15 members of the Western Cape ANC Youth League's provincial executive committee have spoken out against what they call a false impression that they support Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in the party's leadership race.

The leadership battle has also filtered down to branch level, from where the delegates for the conference is due to come. Earlier this month branches in the Ekurhuleni region revolted against the regional executive committee, led by a known Zuma ally, after it allegedly declared its support NDZ without a directive from the lower structures.

This is but one example of a steady stream of accusations by branches of being bullied and bought in the run-up to the December conference. Branches or sections which fail to support Dlamini-Zuma are allegedly being dissolved or suspended, and ”patronage” is being wielded like a club, according to one report.

Although other factors, like corruption, and the patronage that goes with it, also plays a role in incidents of violence, and even murder, fear has undoubtedly also become an issue in the build-up to the conference.

In KwaZulu-Natal, politically motivated killings have been the subject of an inquiry, and ANC MP Makhosi Khoza did not attend the party’s KZN disciplinary hearing on Sunday – which has now been adjourned – due to threats to her life directed at her.

No free and fair election

Some commentators have come to the conclusion that a free and fair election at the December conference has already become impossible. Under the circumstances, whoever wins, the chances seem extremely slim that it would be universally accepted wirhin the party.

And, that is not the end of the story. One can expect the battle for positions on the party’s candidate list for 2019 to start almost immediately after the December conference ends.

The implications of the developing situation also stretch much wider than just the ANC, with amongst others, mounting evidence that some elements of the national security structures being sucked into the factional battles.

This is, however, not a new phenomenon. It also happened in 2007 at the time when the battle between President Zuma and his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki played itself out.

Depending on how the present battle plays out, and especially if there is a major split in the ANC before the 2019 elections, institutions like the Independent Electoral Commission could also come under pressure. And factional violence in areas like KZN, where thousands of people were killed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, could dramatically escalate again.

by Intelligence Bulletin Team

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