ANC Women's League backs Zuma

The African National Congress’s Women’s League late on Monday nominated deputy leader Jacob Zuma as its candidate to head up the organisation, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported. Their backing for Zuma for the top job comes after the ANC Youth League (Ancyl) on Friday also nominated Zuma.

In three days of voting in provincial and internal party organisations that ended on Monday, Mbeki won four of nine provinces, all with close votes. In his stronghold in the Eastern Cape, he won 520 votes to 322 for Zuma. The biggest upset was in Gauteng, where Mbeki lost to Zuma by 94 votes to 262.

While the voting was not binding, it was a clear cry for change.

Mbeki has alienated rank-and-file party members with a leadership style seen as aloof and exclusive, and economic policies seen as favouring big business and failing to improve life for the poor.

While Mbeki has charmed South Africa’s white-led business community, Zuma’s populist tactics have wowed the poor and unemployed who have not benefited from 14 years of black rule.

Zuma has spent the last couple of weeks meeting with business leaders, trying to allay their fears that he could overturn successful economic policies.

Mbeki had sought an unprecedented third term as ANC president, analysts say, to flout the ambitions of his one-time protégé , Zuma, and to ensure that he would have a say in who would succeed him as president. Under the Constitution, Mbeki cannot stand for a third term as leader of South Africa.

Rivalry between the two men began two years ago. Mbeki fired Zuma as the country’s deputy president after Zuma was charged with rape and implicated in corruption in a multibillion-dollar arms deal.

Zuma was cleared of the rape charge. Corruption charges were withdrawn for lack of evidence but are expected to be resurrected since a judge opened the way this month for investigators to seek evidence abroad.

Mbeki stands accused of covering up the arms scandal by refusing to allow an independent investigation—one of several scandals that have tarnished his presidency.

Analysts say the leadership race will mean much jockeying, lobbying, pay-offs and patronage before the December 16 to 20 national convention.

“Of course there’s going to be fierce lobbying ... that still could tip the balance in Mbeki’s favour, but I don’t think it’s likely,” said analyst Aubrey Matshiqi of the Centre for Policy Studies in Johannesburg.

He said the question for Mbeki was whether he would be remembered as the ANC president and head of state who presided over unprecedented periods of economic growth and put Africa on the world agenda, or as “the leader who tried to stay for too long and was rejected by his own party?” - Sapa-AFP, Sapa-AP

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