In five years' time, South Africa will be led by Baleka Mbete or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – that's if the ANC Women's League (ANCWL) has its way.
Bathabile Dlamini, the social development minister and an ANC national working committee member, wants the league to discuss a resolution at its national congress in October to support a woman candidate to take over as president of the ANC in 2017, and of the country in 2019.
If the resolution is adopted, it could mean that ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa will be challenged by a woman candidate for the top position in 2017.
“We have a lot of women leaders in South Africa. We think it is about time to have a woman president,” Dlamini said in interview this week. “This is one of the issues we will raise during the ANCWL conference, the ANC general council next year and the national conference in 2017.”
This echoes President Jacob Zuma’s sentiments – he also said earlier this year that the country was ready for a female president.
Dlamini mentioned Mbete, the ANC chairperson, and Dlamini-Zuma, the African Union Commission chairperson, as among the suitable candidates.
“I would support Baleka or Nkosazana to be president of the country any day,” she said. “You have many capable leaders within the ANC ... you have women premiers and ministers. We have many women who have excelled in their work.”
Some women’s league branches have started to lobby Dlamini to stand for the position of league president. Other candidates likely to be nominated for the position are Angie Motshekga, the basic education minister and the league’s current president, and the water affairs minister, Nomvula Mokonyane.
Asked whether she would accept nomination for the position of women’s league president, Dlamini said she could not comment about leadership positions before the league’s branches discussed the matter.
“I don’t even know the date of the conference. Branches have not started with the nomination process as yet. People are just talking. The ANC has its own procedures and practices. Right now, I think no branch has started nomination. It would be arrogant of me to say I am standing when branches have not started [nominations]. The conference is not about me but programmes of the organisation.”
Dlamini said the conference needed to select a leadership that would respond to the needs of women and the country: “As the leadership, we must try to be dynamic and draw into our ranks professionals and businesswomen. Ordinary women have always been the pillar within the organisation.”
But some in the league are unhappy about the prospect of Dlamini standing for the position of president. A leader of the league in Western Cape said she would not support Dlamini because she was originally from Zuma’s province – KwaZulu-Natal.
“We can’t have all ANC leaders coming from one province,” said the provincial leader, who favours Motshekga.
Women’s league sources have claimed that those supporting Mokonyane, who are known as “Mvulas”, have launched a serious campaign to make sure that the former Gauteng premier gets elected at the national conference. She is said to enjoy the support of the younger generation in the league.
Mokonyane was not available to comment. Motshekga said she would await the nomination process and take the mandate, if any, from the league’s branches.