/ 18 December 2007

ANC voting: ‘So far, so good’

A third day of cool, rainy weather in Polokwane did little to quench the fiery support for the front-runners in the ANC presidential race: Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

Voting for the party’s top six officials started later than the scheduled time of 6am on Tuesday morning due to computer-related delays. Voters continued to stream in to make their mark just before midday.

A long queue snaked around the voting station on the University of Limpopo campus outside Polokwane, but security officials kept journalists and photographers at a distance.

Spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said there had been no serious problems. ”So far so good,” he said, adding that it was unknown when the voting would conclude.

ANC national executive committee member and Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils cast his ballot in the morning. He told journalists that the party’s national conference was where policy was decided, not only leadership positions, adding that he was to put forward a proposal for the boycott of the ”Zionist state of Israel” to the party’s international commission.

ANC deputy president Zuma and his bodyguards arrived shortly after 9am to cast his vote, clad in a brown leather jacket and a khaki ANC cap. His arrival at the venue was met with wild applause from delegates in the queue, and he waved at his supporters as they sung his praises.

Songs of support for various candidates were heard throughout the morning and voters expressed relief once they had made their mark.

A group of Zuma supporters sang and danced outside the voting area, and a large group of Mbeki supporters marched across the university campus at midmorning, bearing banners and singing songs in support of their candidate.

Earlier, Jim Mkandawire said after casting his vote: ”We have done it, as we have been saying all along. Zuma is an unstoppable tsunami. I love Mbeki but believe that politics in the ANC is like a relay. He has to hand over the stick to another person.”

Jane Mathe, a delegate from Gauteng, came out of the voting station singing loudly ”Dedela abanye [Give others a chance]”. She said: ”I’m happy that the long wait is over. This is the last kicks of a dying horse.”

Some supporters of ANC leader Mbeki lambasted the media for orchestrating ”a smear campaign” against him. Lukhanya Petros, a delegate from the Eastern Cape, accused the media of ”waging a campaign against Mbeki”.

”You, the media, have deliberately misrepresented facts and misled people by saying that Mbeki wants to serve a third term as president of the country. This is despite the fact that he has made it clear that he was standing as candidate for the ANC presidency and not the country’s presidency,” he said.

Thembi Mgoba from Gauteng said she was glad that the time for the media’s anti-Mbeki campaign to be exposed had finally arrived. ”All along you were being misled by these noisy Zuma people. Mbeki has solid support within the movement and you will be shocked when the results are announced,” she said.

Apart from voting, most of Tuesday was to be devoted to ANC commission sessions on strategy, tactics and organisational renewal.


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.

His announcement surprised a conference session that had up to then done little but applaud when the names of the candidates for party president (Mbeki and 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 Baleka 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.

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.