/ 26 November 2007

Zuma leads ANC nomination race

African National Congress deputy president Jacob Zuma leads the race for nominations for the post of party president with five provinces supporting him, to President Thabo Mbeki’s four, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) news reported on Sunday.

Zuma got overwhelming support from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday evening. In KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma got 580 votes to Mbeki’s nine and in Gauteng, Zuma walked away with 263 votes and Mbeki received 94. Zuma also garnered support from Mpumalanga, the Free State and the Northern Cape. The ANC Youth League also gave him their backing last week.

Mbeki won nominations from the Eastern and Western Cape, Limpopo and the North West.

Zuma received a total of 2 270 votes and Mbeki received 1 396, the SABC reported.

ANC spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said the official results would be released on Monday, when the ANC Women’s League would also announce its nomination.

According to the SABC, the KwaZulu-Natal nomination process erupted in chaos at the party’s general council meeting in Durban. Delegates were reportedly bitterly divided over the removal of provincial Premier Sibusiso Ndebele and others seen as Mbeki loyalists from the list.

Political analyst Steven Friedman told the South African Press Association (Sapa) on Sunday afternoon: ”The results [so far] provide the first hard indication of how people are voting in the ANC.”

It was the ”hardest information” to date on how the 4 075 ANC voting delegates would cast their secret ballots at the party’s national conference in Polokwane, Limpopo, next month.

Independent political analyst Lawrence Schlemmer said the results were a ”serious indication” of how things would go in Polokwane.

”There’s a rough rule that applies: If your branch has decided, by a majority vote, the candidates who should be favoured, people … are under an obligation to carry that particular preference through to their final vote. It exercises … considerable leverage on the preferences of individuals.

”I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a good, hard indication [of how ANC delegates will vote in Polokwane], but I’d say it was a serious [one]… it’s a serious indication, is how I would see it,” he said.

Asked if he thought Mbeki would call an early general election should he lose to Zuma, Schlemmer said he did not think this would happen.

”No, I don’t think it will happen. It’s not really in South Africa’s political culture to be that responsive to the democratic climate. I think he [Mbeki] will hold out to see if he can’t use the last months to increase his leverage and bargaining power,” he said.

Friedman said he thought Mbeki would be under pressure to call an early election under these circumstances.

”I think … he [Mbeki] would be under pressure to call an early election, because it would create tensions. It would create problems within government; it would, I think, make his own position difficult.

”Whether he would actually do that or not, I don’t know. Certainly there would be pressure to hold an election so you don’t have a situation where the president of the country and the president of the party are different people … and political rivals,” he said.

Charm offensive

On Zuma becoming party president and moving on to become president of South Africa, and the impact this might have on investors, Friedman said that in the event of a Zuma presidency, he did not think there would be a ”significant shift” in economic policy.

”Zuma has said this repeatedly. As far as the way in which investors would … respond, my guess is that … there could be a bit of a re-run of what happened when Trevor Manuel became Finance Minister.

”I think there will be a sharp reaction from investors initially, but I think that will calm down. He [Zuma] is already on a charm offensive to business; I would expect him to continue that.”

Friedman said he did not think Zuma was as harsh towards big business as business thought he was.

”That’s why I think that if he does become president of the country, I think he would mend fences with business very quickly,” he said.

Schlemmer, asked if he though there might be a sharp reaction from investors in the event of Zuma becoming president of the ANC, and president of the country, said he did not think so, but expected there would be some change in economic policy.

In this regard, Zuma would be ”constantly reminded that the SA Communist Party and the trade union movement, whether officially or otherwise, have been on his side”.

That meant some things would definitely change.

”I would imagine … there’ll be somewhat more reserve in the naked enrichment of party insiders, the way it’s happening at the moment … I think that will have to be tempered, because it’s not popular in the trade union movement.”

Schlemmer sounded one warning.

”One of the things that is a real danger … is that there’ll be very, very heavy pressure on the governor of the Reserve Bank not to raise interest rates, and we may see investors becoming nervous about inflation,” he said.

Last week, University of Cape Town politics lecturer Zwelethu Jolobe told Sapa he believed that in the event of a two-way contest between Mbeki and Zuma, it was likely to be a neck-and-neck finish.

The only other time in the ANC’s history where there had been a close finish was in 1940, where Dr AB Xuma won the presidency by one vote, he said.

However the looming threat of corruption charges against Zuma could give Mbeki an edge in the last lap.

He was not convinced that Zuma, who had suffered a ”damaging” two years since his dismissal as deputy president of the country, could win against an incumbent who did not face the same pressures from the legal system, and whose macro-economic policies were ”very secure”. – Sapa