Zuma’s calls for unity fall on deaf ears as ANC succession race heats up
While President Jacob Zuma continues to call for unity within the ANC, the party’s women’s league has broken ranks with tradition by openly endorsing Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as its preferred presidential candidate.
Despite the succession debate not yet opened the women’s league announced after its National Executive Meeting on Saturday that it would support the outgoing African Union chairperson to take the top position.
“Having made this examination about Cde Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, we are of the firm view that her capacity, experience and credentials are second to none. She is an undisputed seasoned leader that the African National Congress deserves,” it said in a statement.
The league’s move was in stark contradiction to the ANC’s call for its structures not to make any pronouncements on names until the succession debate had been formally opened.
Just hours after the women’s league made its pronouncement, Zuma spoke at an ANC fundraising Gala dinner in Sandton where he avoided the succession issue, choosing rather to focus on calls for a united ANC.
In his brief address at the Sandton Convention Centre he urged the ANC to put the national agenda first.
This was a change of tune from controversial statements Zuma made in 2015 when he said he believed the needs of the ANC came before the needs of the country.
This time, Zuma instead told ANC leaders that the party needed to give South Africans hope and provide the quality of leadership the country deserved.
“We must not go down in history books as a leadership collective that spent months or even years fighting in parliament and in society and was unable to move South Africa forward,” he said.
The president also called on leaders in all sectors of society to put their differences aside for the sake of the country.
“Leaders from all sections and parties must find a way to put the national interest first at times before party political interests”.
But while Zuma continues to call for unity, 2017 is expected to be one of the most divisive years for an ANC that is already riddled with factionalism.
The conclusion of today’s January 8 anniversary celebrations will signal the start of intense lobbying for presidential candidates ahead of the party’s national conference in December.
While Zuma has called for accord and spoken highly of the discipline within the ANC, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa has been less diplomatic about the ANC’s challenges, openly criticising deviant behaviour among leaders.
During his speech at a commemoration service for SACP leader Joe Slovo on Friday, Ramaphosa called for lifestyle audits on ANC leaders whom he said hid behind their relatives and companies while conducting corrupt acts.
Ramaphosa also lashed out at leaders who were involved in factions.
“Our movement is riddled with factions and even leaders are leaders of factions,” he said.
Zuma is one such leader who is believed to be aligned to the so-called “premier league” which is led by Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza, Free State premier Ace Magashule and North West premier Supra Mahumapelo. This league is believed to be lobbying for Dlamini-Zuma to succeed her former husband.
As Zuma prepares to deliver his final January 8 statement today, the focus will now shift to the fast unfolding succession race.