ANC faces toughest poll yet

This weekend the ANC will take the first steps towards launching its election strategy in preparation for what will be one of the toughest polls it has faced.

ANC officials confirmed that they would convene a “strategy workshop” but would not disclose details about the meeting, expected to take place in Johannesburg.

But senior party members said the workshop would focus on conceptualising an election message and drawing up election work timetables.

One Luthuli House official said: “It will also establish committees to deal with various aspects of election work. We are probably also going to give guidelines for list conferences in the provinces.
But the workshop will also receive survey reports about the general mood in the country to inform our strategy.”

The workshop will finalise dates for the launch of the ANC’s manifesto and election campaign and its national list conference.

The ANC increased its majority in the last two general elections, in 1999 and 2004, to 69,7%. But it has just emerged from an exhausting internal battle over the presidency of the party.

The wounds inflicted by the leadership battle have not fully healed and the provinces are now embroiled in internal conflicts which have led to violence in the Western Cape, Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape.

One of the most common problems has been the emergence of parallel structures at branch and regional level, with leaders refusing to recognise each other.

Two separate regional conferences took place in Mafikeng, both purporting to be authentic.

The party faces an uphill battle for control of the Western Cape, where it has alienated some supporters by axing premier Ebrahim Rasool.

Huge uncertainty remains about what will happen to party president Jacob Zuma, who the party has chosen as the face of its campaign.

For the past two years, the ANC and alliance structures have mounted a campaign for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to drop Zuma’s corruption case.

Zuma himself has launched several, mostly unsuccessful challenges to the charges and now plans to apply for a permanent stay of prosecution in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. The NPA has signalled that it wants him to finish off all his interlocutory applications within a prescribed period so they can proceed against him. The case could start shortly before the elections.

Party deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe told the Mail & Guardian the ANC leadership was not unduly worried that Zuma’s trial would affect the election campaign.

“We work hard for every election; and if this means we have to work even harder, we will do so,” he said.

“But we never take elections or victory for granted. Obviously the first prize for us will be that he is cleared of the allegations before the elections.”

The M&G recently reported on a Markinor survey which indicated that if an election were held now, none of the opposition parties would win more than 10% of the vote.

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane

Rapule Tabane is the Mail & Guardian's politics editor. He sometimes worries that he is a sports fanatic, but is in fact just crazy about Orlando Pirates. While he used to love reading only fiction, he is now gradually starting to enjoy political biographies. He was a big fan of Barack Obama, but now accepts that even he is only mortal. Read more from Rapule Tabane

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