Zuma loyalists top ANC elections list

ANC president Jacob Zuma has ensured he remains in a position of strength with the release of his party's long-awaited candidate list for the 2014 general elections. 

The list is laden with Zuma loyalists and presents a victory for those who sided with the president at the party's elective conference in Mangaung in December 2012.

The "change" faction, however, has been largely defeated with its lead figure Kgalema Motlanthe out in the cold.

Former ANC Youth League president Fikile Mbalula is the one exception on the list. The country's sports and recreation minister made a surprise appearance at number six on the list and has proven to be fiercely popular with ANC branches, despite begin punted by ousted Julius Malema as part of the change faction at Mangaung. Mbalula has kept a low profile since, avoiding Malema, and worked his way back into Zuma's good graces. 

The ANC released its candidate list for the 2014 general elections on its website, following its submission to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on Tuesday afternoon.

One glaring omission on the list is long-serving Minister Trevor Manuel. Hints that he would be excluded began on Monday when a parliamentary programme revealed a scheduled farewell for him and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. But the ANC was at pains to point out that the two figures had chosen not to return of their own accord. "They are not on the lists because they have declined nomination … not because the ANC told them not to avail themselves," said party secretary general Gwede Mantashe. 

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu opened a press conference in Centurion shortly after, encouraging journalists to look at the list before asking questions. 

The ANC candidate list consists of candidates for Parliament and all nine provincial legislatures. According to Mthembu, it is the culmination of a thorough process of internal democracy, which included an intensive vetting process.

Internal dissent rumours
The party's list conference was twice delayed, sparking rumours that the ANC was trying to contain internal dissent over the list during crucial campaigning.

It was first postponed after the death of former president Nelson Mandela on December 5 2013. This was seen as giving the party the breathing space to try to get its house in order.

The party subsequently said the conference would take place around the same time as its national executive committee meeting in Nelspruit on January 6 and 7. It eventually took place at the end of January, but the party still did not release its list, saying it would honour the IEC's deadline for the submission of lists, which is Wednesday. 

The Mail & Guardian reported earlier this year that internal dynamics had put a brake on finalising who would go to Parliament after this year's election.

With polls suggesting that the ANC might drop to well below 60% for the first time, the party needs all hands on deck for a successful election campaign.

A recent Ipsos Markinor poll commissioned by the Sunday Times found that only 55% of those who voted for the ANC in 2009 plan to do so again next year.

In this climate, leaders are anxious to appear high enough on the list to avoid being left out of Parliament should the ANC get fewer seats.

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Verashni Pillay
Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.

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