One person will be at the heart of 2012's battles

President Jacob Zuma’s name will be at the centre of several major political events in 2012 as he fights for re-election as ANC president at the party’s conference in Mangaung in December.

Amid the pomp and ceremony of the ANC’s 100th anniversary celebrations, even he will not be able to hide from the fact that he is leading a political party that is at war with itself, crippled by factionalism, infighting and ill-discipline.

The anti-Zuma group in the alliance, including the ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, want Zuma replaced with his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe.

They also want the ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe replaced with the party’s head of organising and campaigns, Fikile Mbalula.

Those calling for leadership change at Mangaung claim that Zuma has continued on the same economic trajectory as his predecessor Thabo Mbeki.

Court challenge
Militants in the party are waiting in anticipation for the outcome of the Democratic Alliance’s court challenge against the dropping of Zuma’s corruption charges. The case takes place in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein in February.

Zuma’s corruption case was stopped by the then acting director of public prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe. The DA is asking the court to review and set aside Mpshe’s decision to discontinue the prosecution.

A second battle will be fought on economic policy.

The economy, they argue, needs a radical transformation because it has failed to create jobs and reduce inequality. Zuma called 2011 the year of job creation but failed to back it up with concrete results.

The militants in the party are hoping to push for the adoption of nationalisation and the expropriation of land without compensation as ANC policy at the party’s conference in June.
Youth league

The policy conference will also debate the issue of the autonomy of the youth league, which became a talking point during the ANC’s decision to charge Malema and his cohorts for bringing the ANC into disrepute.

The recent provincial conference of the ANC in Limpopo took a resolution on the autonomy of the youth league.

Another important debate expected to take centre stage at the policy conference includes the unresolved issue of the centre of power in the alliance. The ANC argues that it is the centre of power, and that trade union federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party say the alliance should be the strategic centre of power. 

The battle for the heart and soul of the ruling party will also be played out in a succession of elections in several regional and provincial conferences in the Free State, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal as well as in those of the SACP and Cosatu.

Before Cosatu’s elective congress in September, affiliated unions—the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)—will also elect new leaders.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni is likely to be challenged by his deputy Oupa Komane, who is seen to be close to Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

On the other hand, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim is also likely to retain his position when the union elects its new leadership.

Both Baleni and Jim are expected to face off if Vavi decides to step down in September. Vavi has been at the helm of the federation for more than a decade and many feel that Jim is the most suitable candidate to replace him.

Baleni’s critics in the trade union movement say he is not militant enough to lead an organisation like Cosatu and adds that, if he takes over, Cosatu will report to Luthuli House and that this will weaken the voice of the left.

At Cosatu’s congress in September, Vavi is likely to be re-elected if he decides to stand again.

However, the delegates, particularly those aligned to Vavi, are likely to push for the removal of S’dumo Dlamini, the trade union federation’s president.

In July the SACP will also hold its conference, with general secretary Blade Nzimande standing again.

If he decides to go for the SACP chairmanship, Nzimande is likely to push for national organiser Solly Mapaila to succeed him as SACP general secretary.

However, if he makes himself available, Nzimande will probably retain the position.

Nominations for leadership positions in the ANC will be opened officially sometime around August and branches will start to debate their preferred candidates. For Zuma to be re-elected as ANC president, he needs to ensure that the victors in these conferences are also his supporters.

Follow the Mail & Guardian‘s coverage of the ANC’s 100th anniversary.

Charles Molele

Charles Molele

Charles Molele is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. Charles joined the paper in 2011. He has covered general news, court and politics for the past 19 years, and also worked as a senior reporter for the Saturday Star, Sunday World, ThisDay, Sunday Times and is former politics editor of the New Age. Charles's other career highlights include covering Kenya's violent general elections (2007/08), Zimbabwe’s sham general elections (2008), Mozambique's food riots (2010) and the historic re-election of US President Barack Obama (2012).
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    Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award.
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