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The ANC secretary general says labour federation Cosatu and the ANC Women’s League are “spoiling the water” in the party by publicly stating who they back as the next president.
In the aftermath of the ANC’s 105th-anniversary celebration on Sunday, secretary general Gwede Mantashe praised President Jacob Zuma’s delivery of the party’s January 8 statement, but had stern words for the women’s league, which has backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to be the next leader.
Zuma’s speech highlighted that factionalism in the ANC had to be addressed so the party could unite once more. Now, however, factionalism in the party is expected to intensify as the battle for Zuma’s successor begins in earnest.
Speaking to Radio 702, Mantashe said the January 8 statement had been written by the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) and that factionalism was now firmly on the party’s agenda. When asked by radio host Xolani Gwala about the women’s league support of Dlamini-Zuma, who currently chairs the African Union, Mantashe said the league had helped to deepen tensions in the ANC.
“I always say people pronounce names prematurely. It’s like a sprint in a race, something called a false start … in politics it may be a miscalculation,” Mantashe said. “But the range of the matter is that the president yesterday rightfully emphasised the fact that what we should be focussing on now is actually talking about the principles that must underpin selection of leadership.”
Mantashe said these principles should be based on what is outlined in the ANC’s Eye of the Needle document, which discusses the party’s process to elect a leader. Among the key points the party is focusing on are the motives of potential candidates, and the election of candidates because of patronage rather than their qualities as leaders. He said that anyone who publicly announced a candidate was not making a nomination, but stating a preference.
“More than 90% of delegates to the [elective] conference will be from the branches of the ANC,” Mantashe said. “That is where it matters and anything else is not a nomination yet, it is just a preference.”
Last year Cosatu backed Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to be Zuma’s successor. This morning, Mantashe said both Cosatu and the women’s league were “spoiling the water in the ANC” by making early pronouncements before the party’s elective conference and that such comments spurred divisions in the party.
One of the ways to strengthen the country, he said, was to strengthen the ANC.
“If the ANC remains fragmented, in factions, it is a weaker ANC. And a weaker ANC is bad for South Africa,” Mantashe said. “If we can strengthen the ANC so that factions move to the periphery the ANC will be better and the country will be better.”
Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma are seen as the frontrunners to take over from Zuma as his final term comes to a close.
The women’s league said in a statement that it believes Dlamini-Zuma is the “only suitable candidate … Her legacy and influence is known and well documented throughout the history pages of the republic and beyond”.
In the January 8 statement, Zuma too warned that members of the party should discuss and debate candidates before making public endorsements.
“There must be agreement about these principles before comrades begin discussions about the names of specific leaders,” he said. “We also urge that the power of ANC branches must not be undermined by slates and lobby groups.”