Deputy to challenge Zuma for top ANC job
The hold by South African president Jacob Zuma on the African National Congress’s top job will be challenged by his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, at the party’s elective conference next week.
After spending months agonising over whether he should challenge Mr Zuma, Mr Motlanthe’s spokesman, Thabo Masebe, said yesterday he had accepted the hundreds of ANC branch nominations he received to contest the position.
According to his backers Mr Motlanthe has agreed to enter the race out of principle, believing the anti-Zuma ANC delegates had a right to be heard during the election. The two men were the only ANC members nominated to lead the party.
“He has informed the electoral commission that he will be accepting for all three positions he was nominated for,” Mr Masebe said before adding: “That is the president, the deputy-president and an additional member [of the national executive committee].”
As it stands, Mr Motlanthe faces an uphill struggle to win the party presidency, as he only garnered 863 out of 3,384 ANC branch votes – a little over 25 per cent – cast during the recent two-month nomination process.
Mr Zuma, the ANC’s leader since 2007, secured the rest of the nominations and, as a result, is expected to keep his job. If successful, his term as South African president would probably be extended, as the leader of the party that wins the 2014 general election automatically becomes the country’s president. ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa confirmed he would stand for election as ANC deputy president against the Zuma slate’s Cyril Ramaphosa. Sports minister Fikile Mbalula has also accepted a nomination as secretary-general, against Gwede Mantashe, one of Mr Zuma’s closest allies.
While results from the nomination process suggest Mr Zuma will win easily, the delegates attending the five-day conference are not obliged to vote the same way they did during the earlier poll when they make their mark next week.
“It’s not about if he will win or lose, it’s about principle now,” a source close to Mr Motlanthe’s campaign told the Mail and Guardian newspaper, “He will challenge the old man [Mr Zuma] on principle to show we are angry with the way the country is going.”.
Mr Motlanthe’s decision will come as a relief to those opposed to Mr Zuma’s rule. A growing number of South Africans have become disillusioned with his governance style and the seemingly endless number of scandals to which he has been connected in recent years.
Last week Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu took a swipe at Mr Zuma’s government at an event in Cape Town honouring the late ANC stalwart and founder of the Irish anti-apartheid movement, Kader Asmal.
He questioned how government could spend more than €20 million of taxpayers’ money on Mr Zuma’s private residence in Nklandla, a rural village in KwaZulu-Natal province, when people nearby lived in poverty.
“Trevor [Manuel, the minister of the interior who attended the event], you tell your boss this old man, who said he was retired, I am going to come back. You tell him that this old man is now going to pray like he prayed for the Nats [the National Party], to come to an end,” he said.