Mkhize works at being No 1

As the two main contenders for the ANC presidency, Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, square off ahead of December, the dark horse in the race, treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, is slowly consolidating his campaign.

With two KwaZulu-Natal regions and one in the Eastern Cape already endorsing him as ANC president, his lobbyists believe the “third way’’ is gaining enough traction for him to take support from branches that have thus far backed one of the two main factions.

Speaking in Johannesburg on Thursday, Mkhize said he had been approached by a number of leaders and branch members. “I have said I will be honoured if there is a nomination on my name since I wish to be part of the leadership that will be part of building our movement, building the ANC, the country and economy.

“On that basis, I will accept a nomination,” he said.

ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize speaks on young leaders being killed and what the ANC plans on doing about it.

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He would “accept any nomination. And those that have indicated that they would like me to be available for a particular position, the number one spot, that’s fine, I will accept that.”

On Sunday, representatives of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) met ANC provincial executive committee members from KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, as well as the ANC’s 11 KZN regions, in Durban to build on the existing nominations. The previous day, Mkhize was nominated by KwaZulu-Natal’s uKhahlamba region, which followed in the footsteps of Phongola in the ANC’s Abaqulusi region in Zululand. The Eastern Cape’s influential Alfred Nzo region chose to nominate Mkhize at its conference last month.

Mkhize is expected to address branches in the eMalahleni region (Newcastle) this weekend and follow this up with Moses Mabhida (Pietermaritzburg) and Durban the next.

Sanco’s provincial secretary, Richard Mkhungo, said they would be working with ANC regions to consolidate Mkhize’s campaign.

The civic body had originally backed Mkhize as deputy on a Ramaphosa slate after discussions with Ramaphosa’s backers. But former KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson and premier Senzo Mchunu had replaced Mkhize on the Ramaphosa slate as secretary general.

“We then decided to go back to our initial position. We are moving with Zweli,” Mkhungo said.

He said branches from the Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma camps in eThekwini, eMalahleni and Moses Mabhida would “pronounce” over the next two weekends that Mkhize was their presidential choice.

A KwaZulu-Natal-based Mkhize lobbyist, who asked not to be named, said they had received 18 invitations for Mkhize to address branches in the province’s 11 ANC regions.

“The others are all lined up. There are activities in every region in the province. There is even competition between subregions as to who he should address. The only issue we have is the TG’s [treasurer general’s] diary as they all want to be addressed over weekends, which are packed,” he said.

The lobbyist said they had reached out to traditional leaders in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape and to a number of church-based groups, which now “want him to come and be endorsed by them”.

He said, although other potential candidates had been indicating their availability before the nominations opened, “we have been working on the ground quietly”.

“All the others have been making noise about their availability. We have been working and now it is the branches that are wanting him to come to them. That is the difference with this campaign,” he said.

Although the other candidates had been “bashing’’ each other, Mkhize “comes with his own programme, not attacking Dlamini-Zuma or Cyril”.

“We are targeting those branches who are tired of the war between the two contesting factions that has defined the character of the ANC in recent years. There is the reality that backing either of them has the potential to split the ANC and end relations with the SACP [South African Communist Party].

“In Mkhize, we have a person who is acceptable to all sides, to the leagues, the veterans and the [tripartite] alliance,” he said.

Although the Alfred Nzo region has already backed Mkhize, another five of the Eastern Cape’s eight regions would follow, he said. Mkhize also has backing in both camps of the ANC in that province, with supporters of Phumulo Masualle and rival Oscar Mbuyane comfortable with a potential Mkhize ANC presidency.

The lobbyist said Mkhize would be acceptable to Mpumalanga, whose chairperson, David Mabuza, is already being mentioned as a potential secretary general on a Mkhize-led slate. Likewise the name of Paul Mashatile on the slate would secure backing from large sections of Gauteng, which was thus far backing Ramaphosa.

Addressing the uKhahlamba meeting on Saturday, Mkhize punted party unity instead of factionalism, saying it could not afford another Polokwane.

“I also think it’s important for us as members of the ANC to realise that it is our responsibility to work for unity, that we give everyone an understanding that we do not accept a situation where the ANC is wrecked by factionalism,” he said.

On Thursday he said that the ANC — in line with NEC decisions — would like “to have less conflict and less tensions as we move towards conference.

“Therefore our focus will be to try and unify the organisation and create a situation where it is possible for various structures and engage in a way that will unite instead of any kind of destructive context.

“I would like to contribute in bringing about more unity, more harmony, more understanding among leaders so that we can take the best decisions for the organisation, rather than create a situation where there might be potential for splits or potential for hostility.”

Meanwhile, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe this week told journalists in Johannesburg that the party’s membership audit process has been completed in six of the nine provinces. He said all branches that have passed the audit should start convening branch general meetings to nominate their preferred leaders, including President Jacob Zuma’s successor, at the party’s elective conference in December. 

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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