NEWS ANALYSIS: ​Succession scuppers the ANC’s attempts at unity

"Achieving unity has been an impossible task thus far, and will be even further out of reach as the ANC's alliance partners stand firm behind Cyril Ramaphosa" (Photo: Delwyn Verasamy)

"Achieving unity has been an impossible task thus far, and will be even further out of reach as the ANC's alliance partners stand firm behind Cyril Ramaphosa" (Photo: Delwyn Verasamy)


Although the ANC preaches unity and is attempting to heal division in its ranks, strong statements by leading candidates at the January 8th 105 birthday party in Soweto show that the succession race has kicked up a gear. 

Unity is in short supply, however, and may prove even more elusive with its alliance partners standing firm behind Cyril Ramaphosa, even as party structures come out for former home affairs minister and current chair of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The deputy president already has an official endorsement from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), and this weekend roused members of the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Two days before Zuma delivered the January 8 stadium to a capacity crowd at Orlando Stadium, his deputy and aspirant replacement, Ramaphosa castigated leaders who “advance their interests and the interests of their friends and their families”. The remarks were interpreted as a snipe at Zuma, and were made at the commemoration of the death of Joe Slovo, a SACP leader.

In a bold move, Ramaphosa called for lifestyle audits among the party’s highest echelon: the national executive committee (NEC). “We are going to make sure that these lifestyle audits do happen. And they must not only happen to general members. They must happen at leadership level — right at the core at the top of the leadership,” he said.

Among the crowd sat senior NEC members Naledi Pandor and Bheki Cele, as well as SACP deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila, who admitted a climate of distrust existed within the alliance. Pandor called on ANC branch members to nominate candidates who are incorruptible have integrity. The veteran ANC leader is seen to be in Ramaphosa’s camp, having supported Derek Hanekom’s motion for Zuma to step down at the last NEC meeting of 2016.

Treasurer general Zweli Mkhize said it is not the succession race, but rather the factions competing in it, that are making it difficult to find unity. “We want to go to a united congress. There has never been a problem of succession, it’s about the factionalism and that’s what we are trying to deal with,” he told the Mail & Guardian.

At the other end of the spectrum and a day after Ramaphosa’s strong showing at Joe Slovo’s commemoration, the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) begun what is assumed will be a uniform decision among the party’s leagues — an endorsement of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The former minister and head of the African Union Commission is presumed as Zuma’s likely successor due to the strong backing she received from the leagues and the ANC in Mpumalanga, Free State and the North West. These are three of the party’s largest provinces and between them, they won all of the awards for excellence handed out after Zuma finished his speech.

During his speech, Zuma focused on the achievements of government, the ANC’s history and the party’s foreign policy more than the state of the organisation and the alliance.

In a slight deviation from his speech, perhaps to place emphasis, Zuma called on leaders to root out “factionalism, the buying of members and the manipulation of internal democratic processes. All of us must fight against these evils, they are undermining our organisation. We cannot continue with these practices, we must stem them out,”

Seemingly unaware of the ANCWL’s endorsement of Dlamini-Zuma, the ANC president also appealed to factions to avoid using the names of their preferred candidates. “There must be agreement about these principals before comrades begin discussions about the names of specific leaders. We also urge that the power of ANC branches must not be undermined by slates and lobby groups,” he said.

Trade and industry minister Rob Davies, who is a member of both the ANC NEC and SACP central committee, told the M&G the alliance requires the calibre of leadership demonstrated by former ANC president Oliver Tambo. “This is the year of Oliver Tambo and we are saying we need a return to that style of leadership. That was inclusive and unifying, especially for the [tripartite] alliance.”

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