Sexwale: No final decision yet on ANC succession race

South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale said on Thursday he had not ruled out joining the race to head the powerful African National Congress (ANC), a position that traditionally leads to the country’s presidency.

”I haven’t made a final decision. I am waiting for the nominations process … I will be guided by the process of nominations by the ANC,” he told the Cape Town Press Club, referring to a December party congress that will choose a new leader.

The ANC succession battle is focused on state and party President Thabo Mbeki and ANC deputy chairperson Jacob Zuma, a rivalry that has triggered some of the worst party infighting in its history.

Sexwale dropped out of politics in 1998 but he is seen as a candidate who could reassure the country’s business community that there would be no shift in the policies behind South Africa’s booming economy.

He reiterated that he would not be interested in running if that deepened divisions in the ANC, which led South Africa to its first democratic elections in 1994 and now faces daunting challenges ranging from rampant crime to glaring inequalities left by apartheid.

Mbeki can’t stand for national president again but nothing prevents him from holding on to the ANC’s top job, which could allow him to influence South Africa’s future even after stepping down as head of state in 2009.

Zuma has strong backing from powerful and increasingly vocal trade unions, which are critical of Mbeki’s business-friendly policies.

‘Uncomfortable’

Sexwale said a lot of people had approached him to stand.

He also admitted to being ”uncomfortable” with the situation where a leader could be chosen in the party without being asked what he stood for, including answering questions on topics such as crime, Aids and the economy.

The nomination process meant an individual could not ”stand” for president of the ANC.

”There is no running, no standing, no platform and there’s no track.”

However, if some people chose to nominate him, he would need to be ”engaged” on why they were doing so.

Sexwale said he would not accept nomination if it meant rejecting what he called ”Mandela-ism”, or seeking revenge on political opponents, or embracing ethnicity, tribalism and divisions.

”I will accept or decline based on what the nomination is about,” he declared.

Answering a question on crime, Sexwale said he wanted to see the concept of punishment put back into the penal system.

”The penal system is there to punish offenders.”

If criminals saw serving time in prison as a ”huge comfort zone”, there would be problems.

He distinguished between what he called ”people who make mistakes” and ”habitual criminals”, and suggested rehabilitating the latter was problematic.

”We’re talking about scum here,” he said, referring to murderers, rapists and other violent criminals.

Sexwale’s wife, Judy, was recently the victim of a car hijacking in which a gun was held to her head and she was forced out of the vehicle she was driving.

Sexwale said crime fighting had to be about penalising those who broke the law. He had no doubt South Africans were ”gatvol” about crime, and what was needed to stop it was making criminals realise they would be arrested, tried and sentenced.

”You serve your penalty. It’s about punishment … What criminals fear the most is to age in jail.”

He was opposed to use of the death penalty because he believed it was not an effective deterrent.

Sexwale, who turned 54 earlier this year, was premier of Gauteng from 1994 to 1998.

He left politics to enter business. — Reuters, Sapa

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