Mbeki, Zuma confirm candidacies for ANC

South African President Thabo Mbeki and his arch-rival, Jacob Zuma, have both officially confirmed they are candidates for party chief of the African National Congress (ANC), their offices said Monday.

“Mr Jacob Zuma signed the ANC nomination form over the weekend in London. He has since faxed it down to the electoral commission,” Zuma’s spokesperson, Ranjeni Munusamy, said by telephone.

Munusamy said that Zuma, a former vice-president of the country, has been on a “private visit” in the British capital and was now in the United States.

“We expect him back in the country before the start of the ANC conference,” which is being held in the northern town of Polokwane in two weeks, she said.

Mbeki, who currently holds the top party post, has also officially joined the race, signing the nomination form on Monday.

Head of the ANC Presidency Smuts Ngonyama told South African Broadcasting Corporation radio Mbeki was responding to the calls of those who still wanted him as party leader.

“He does so because he respects the views, opinions, and the aspirations of the members of the ANC. As he has said in the past, if members of the ANC so wish, he will abide by their will.

“It is within that context that he has signed these nomination forms nominating him as the president of the ANC,” Ngonyama said.

During the conference about 4 000 ANC delegates will elect the party’s president and other senior officials.

After recent provincial nominations across the country, Zuma was proved the clear frontrunner in the race against Mbeki, who is seeking a third consecutive mandate to hold the leadership of the party.

Zuma won in five of the nation’s nine provinces, leaving Mbeki with four.

Zuma, who Mbeki sacked in 2005 as deputy head of state after his financial adviser was jailed for fraud, also got the nod of the women’s and youth leagues in their nominations.

Mbeki told a newspaper on Sunday that he would not rule out calling early general elections if he failed to win the leadership of the party.

“I have not thought about that one [early poll].
We haven’t got there yet. I don’t know. It’s possible, it’s possible, yes indeed,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Independent.

Mbeki, who completes his second term as South Africa’s president in 2009, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term as head of state.

‘Think carefully’

Meanwhile, the ANC should not use an early general election as a way of sorting out its own political squabbles, most opposition parties warned on Monday.

It was reported on the weekend that supporters of Jacob Zuma, anticipating he would take over the party presidency this month, saw an early election as one way of removing Thabo Mbeki from the national presidency.

As things stand, Mbeki’s term expires with the next scheduled poll in 2009.

Chairperson of the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) federal council James Selfe told the South African Press Association that if there was an early election, it would not be because voters’ interests were at stake, or because Parliament could not discharge its functions, but because there was a problem in the ANC “and the ANC would be seeking to make its problems the country’s problems”.

It would be a poor reflection on South Africa’s constitutional democracy if it had to go to an election to resolve the ANC’s internal squabbles.

He said the DA—“well resourced and well organised, certainly much better organised than the ANC at this point”—was ready to fight an early poll.

The DA would like to think it could improve on its results in the last general election.

“We would think that winning the Western Cape is a likely proposition, whether alone or in coalition with others. We would certainly put that very high on our list of priorities,” he said.

Leader of the Independent Democrats Patricia de Lille said her party could not support the idea of an early poll.

“We can’t allow the ANC to come and unsettle our plans for 2009,” she said.

“It’s not about benefiting or strengthening our democracy: it’s about people wanting jobs, [about] patronage.

“We’re only 450 days away from the next general election. The ANC can use the 450 days to work hard and bring some unity in their party.”

Mbeki had already outlined his plans for the remainder of his ten-year term of office, and should be allowed to see them through.

On opposition chances in an election, she said smaller parties would certainly benefit from an “unhappy vote” in the ANC if Mbeki lost to Zuma.

Inkatha Freedom Party deputy chairperson Velaphi Ndlovu said that though it was difficult to say that an election was a bad idea, because it was the way democracy worked, calling one at a particular time could be problematic.

“Those people that win [at the ANC conference], they must think carefully before they take that decision,” he said.

United Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa said an early poll would create a bad precedent.

“It would show that our system is vulnerable if we can have early elections just because of infighting in a ruling party,” he said. “That should be rejected at all costs.”

Mbeki was doing a “sterling” job as president of the country, and ousting him prematurely could backlash on the ANC.

President of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) Kenneth Meshoe said he did not see how the ANC would solve its squabbles unless voters were allowed to say how they wanted the country governed.

“I think it [an early poll] would be the right thing to happen, because it will bring stability in the country. I support that,” he said.

He said he believed the ACDP would do “very well” in an election if Zuma won the ANC post, as his moral ground was “very shaky”.—AFP, Sapa

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