Outgoing ANC treasurer general Dr Zweli Mkhize says he withdrew as a candidate for the governing party’s deputy presidency not to boost any faction’s hand but to ‘’build unity’’ ahead of a potentially divisive poll.
On Sunday Mkhize, who had been nominated as deputy president by 193 branches and one province, shocked the more than 4 700 delegates at Nasrec when he announced he was pulling out of the race. Mkhize had campaigned on a ‘’unity’’ ticket throughout the run-up to the elective conference and had not been named on either of the main contenders’ slates.
However, after his hostile reception at the KwaZulu-Natal provincial general council last month, Mkhize had met with President Jacob Zuma and the KwaZulu-Natal provincial leadership, with sources informing the Mail & Guardian that the meeting had discussed a deal with Mkhize to withdraw in favour of Mpumalanga ANC chairperson David Mabuza, the deputy president candidate on the slate headed by national executive council (NEC) member Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Mkhize said on Monday that there had been no deal. ‘’People are saying that I endorsed a candidate. I didn’t endorse [anyone]. Some are saying that a deal was cut. There was no deal cut,’’ Mkhize said.
Mkhize, who will stand as a candidate for the party’s 80-member national executive committee, said he had held talks with a range of people about unity.
‘’I have been involved with discussions with a number of people in the provinces and at national level to say what can we do to build unity and unite the ANC. It should not be about who emerges. It should be about what is the best deal for the ANC,’’ Mkhize said.
‘’I offered to say: ‘look, I can withdraw if that’s gonna help pull the leadership together.’ I did that because I have been pushing the idea of unity. Unity does not mean you can only be having unity because I’m in it. This is about strengthening the ANC,’’ he said.
Mkhize said he had learned from the role he played in electing Zuma at the ANC’s elective conference in Polokwane in 2007 that there were practices that the ANC needed to ‘’move way from’’.
‘’We need to do away with factions,’’ he said. Mkhize said the ANC branches needed to be ‘’given the freedom to decide who they want to choose.’’
‘’That’s what happened last night,’’ he said.
The party needed to elect its new leadership and put the conference behind it and rebuild the party. It also needed to work out a way to rebuild relationships with its alliance partners and civil society. Mkhize said he had ‘’no doubt’’ that the leadership elected would be able to unify the party.
He said there had not been a discussion about recalling Zuma as president of the country, saying that the ANC would discuss the matter if and when it arose. Other ANC presidents had also finished their terms 18 months before their term in government and that the party had ‘’managed’’ the issue.
They would do the same in Zuma’s case ‘’if the issue arises.’’
Mkhize said he would continue to be an ANC member and would stand for the NEC if nominated. ‘’It’s not like I’m retiring,’’ he said.