Supporters of ANC president Jacob Zuma will stop any attempts to discuss leadership issues at the ruling party’s policy conference this week.
This is the unyielding view of sources within the ruling party, who told the Mail & Guardian they will “suppress” any attempts to discuss succession within the ruling party.
“People wanting to abuse this conference by bringing up leadership will be silenced. They cannot use this conference to put forward their own agenda – it won’t happen,” said one ruling party source, requesting to remain anonymous but known to be a Zuma supporter.
Officially, it would seem the party itself officially supports this train of thought, telling the M&G it would be “out of line” for delegates to discuss leadership or succession in Midrand.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu told the M&G that “only policies” must be discussed at the policy conference which takes place at Gallagher Estate from Tuesday.
“The reality is that this is a policy conference and not an elective conference and ANC members must differentiate between the two,” Mthembu said.
This is despite nothing being stated in the ANC constitution regarding the rules of engagement within a policy conference.
Zuma is currently embroiled in a covert leadership tussle in an attempt to retain his position as president of the party at their upcoming national elective conference in Mangaung this December.
Although neither has publicly stated their intentions, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale are both seen as the frontrunners to challenge Zuma in Mangaung.
Both instances are interpreted as veiled attacks on Zuma’s leadership.
Zuma, meanwhile, lashed out at critics of the second transition at the party’s Free State provincial conference at the weekend, challenging them to come up with a better plan.
While the policy conference is not officially sanctioned as a meeting where leadership can be debated, it is expected to be the arena in which the presidential hopefuls would informally launch and gauge support for their campaigns.
These comments follow hot on the heels of a City Press report claiming NEC member Tony Yengeni – who is thought to be anti-Zuma – said issues surrounding succession would be thrashed out at the policy conference.
“Leadership will be discussed, especially how leadership conducts itself. There will be an assessment of the current leadership of the ANC,” Yengeni is quoted in the article.
Mthembu said that while the party couldn’t control “people discussing things in shebeens and taverns”, anyone attempting to put leadership issues on the agenda will be prevented from doing so.
“On Friday when President Zuma closes this conference, the ANC will come out with clear ideas on policies and nothing else,” he said.
But, a high level ANC NEC member told the M&G it would be “foolhardy” for the ANC to think leadership won’t come up at the policy conference.
“People talk, you can’t stop that.”
The issue of leadership of the party won’t come up directly, but it could arise within the policy commissions taking place at the conference,” the source, who requested anonymity, told the M&G.
The source also said issues involving “quality” of leadership would more than likely be introduced.
“It is possible for members to discuss what type of leadership we want going forward, what attributes and qualities we need in our leadership,” he said.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe put a lid on any discussions around leadership in the run up to Mangaung, saying leadership debates will only officially be opened in October.