Jacob Zuma's detractors have warned that another five years with him at the helm could have disastrous consequences for both the ANC and South Africa.
As President Jacob Zuma's chances of re-election at the ANC's national congress gain momentum, concerns have been raised about whether he is capable of bringing about policy changes.
His detractors have warned that another five years with him at the helm could have disastrous consequences for both the ANC and South Africa, but his supporters argue that he will introduce changes to the economy and unite the party.
Zuma's bid for a second term received a major boost this week after Cosatu – a key partner of the alliance – endorsed him to lead the ANC beyond the party's national conference in Mangaung in December.
The ANC Women's League, the South African Communist Party, Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans' Association and at least five provincial executive committees have also endorsed him as their preferred candidate for the position of ANC president. But the contest is far from decided because the most important units, the branches, are yet to express their wishes. The veterans' association, Cosatu and the SACP do not vote at an ANC conference.
Cosatu said its support for Zuma at the conference did not come cheap. The union federation stressed that his re-election had to usher in a "Lula moment" and set South Africa on a more radical and transformative path.
"Economically, this means a total break from orthodox neoliberal policies, which have failed our country [since 1994]," said Cosatu in a statement released after a meeting of its central executive committee.
A vocal Zuma supporter said the president deserved re-election because he would make many changes. "Mangaung will determine what could change, but JZ does want his second term to be different," said the leader. "He says we have to do things differently. We can't allow ill discipline to continue in the ANC. We have to put our foot down.
"He feels the composition of the NEC [the ANC's national executive committee] must change and workers' leaders must come forward. Remember that, after Mangaung, we have to start working on a manifesto for 2014 and things will become clearer then. The devil is in the detail."
Mlibo Qoboshiyane, a Zuma lobbyist and MEC for local government in the Eastern Cape, said re-election would assist Zuma to roll out the multibillion-rand infrastructure programme announced in his State of the Nation address in February. He said the programme would stimulate economic growth and create jobs.
However, several ANC leaders said Zuma's re-election could lead to a massive decline in electoral support for the ANC in 2014.
A national executive committee member said a second term for Zuma meant the beginning of the end for the ruling party and carried far-reaching implications for South Africa, which is battling with slow economic growth, wildcat strikes in the mining industry and poor leadership.
Zuma has been under pressure for spending more than R238-million of taxpayer money to upgrade his Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal. He has also been criticised for the building of what has been dubbed Zumaville, a R2-billion town 3km near his homestead in Nkandla.
"Whether we like it or not, JZ is out of his depth and cannot provide the requisite leadership for the party," said another committee member. "The ANC needs a sophisticated leader who will understand the geopolitical challenges that the ANC faces. Under him the ANC has been losing credibility here at home, in Africa and the rest of the world. Even the Democratic Alliance is now confident that in 2019 they can be in government simply because of JZ.
"We must correct the wrongs of Polokwane, otherwise this will affect our performance during the 2014 national elections. People will stay away from the polls. Almost daily the credit ratings are downgrading our country. Our reputation as a safe haven for foreign direct investment has gone down the drain.
"Those who support his re-election are beneficiaries of political patronage. There is nothing principled about their support. Recent surveys are saying most South Africans – especially the youth – don't approve of Zuma's leadership. That is the vote we want [in Mangaung]."