/ 17 December 2007

Sexwale steps out of ANC race

African National Congress (ANC) heavyweight Tokyo Sexwale on Monday night declined his nomination to the position of national chairperson as the names of those in the running for the ruling party’s top six positions were announced.

“We are committed to the empowerment of women,” Sexwale told a packed main marquee at the ANC’s national conference in Polokwane before adding: “I have decided to step back from the position and I do so in preference of Baleka Mbete.”

His announcement surprised a conference session that had up to then done little but applaud when the names of the candidates for party president (Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma going head to head, as predicted) and deputy president (Mbeki loyalist Joel Netshitenzhe and Kgalema Motlanthe) were announced without further nominations. However, cheers rang out after he had finished speaking.

A delegate from Limpopo province then nominated Mbete, who accepted, and a clear majority of delegates signalled their approval by a show of hands.

Chairperson Mosiuoa Lekota and Gwede Mantashe, former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, are in the running for the position of secretary general, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Mathews Phosa are vying to become the new treasurer general.

Mbete declined her nomination as deputy secretary general following Sexwale’s earlier announcement, and a Limpopo delegate then nominated North West speaker Thandi Modise to stand against Thoko Didiza for the position. Again a large number of hands indicated the majority of delegates’ approval of the nomination.

Non-voting delegates were not allowed into the main marquee during the nominations process. The media were allowed in, but only following much confusion after being told earlier by spokesperson Bheki Khumalo that they would be let in, only to find marshals refusing them access to the mammoth tent.

It was announced that voting would start on Tuesday morning at 6am at the campus library.

No cellphones or cameras would be allowed inside the voting hall following earlier allegations of delegates being offered money if they could prove they voted for a specific candidate.

Counting of votes for the top six will be done manually to assuage concerns raised at the conference of Sunday regarding the transparency of the voting process.