The Political Week Ahead: Crunch Time for Zuma as ANC Gathers in Durban

by Sep 21, 2010All Articles

By Sibongakonke Shoba and Sam Mkokeli

20 September 2010

It was at the same gathering five years ago that ANC delegates saved Mr Zuma’s political career when they rejected his resignation as the party’s number two.

The long-awaited African National Congress (ANC) national general council will kick off in Durban today — a gathering expected to show whether party president Jacob Zuma will retain his position in 2012.

It was at the same gathering five years ago that ANC delegates saved Mr Zuma’s political career when they rejected his resignation as the party’s number two after he had been charged with corruption. That move was the first big step in Mr Zuma’s rise and the demise of then president Thabo Mbek i .

Already there are signs that Mr Zuma’s staunchest backers, the ANC Youth League and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) have turned on the man they helped rise to the highest office. The youth league has issued an ultimatum that unless Mr Zuma supports their call for nationalisation of the mines, he risks losing its support. L eader Julius Malema said the league would not support a leadership that would please the West — a statement widely perceived as an attack on Mr Zuma, who has assured investors worldwide nationalisation is not ANC policy. At an ANC rally in the Free State recently, Mr Malema said leaders must be exemplary. “You must have one wife and one husband,” he said. Mr Zuma has three wives and a fiancée.

Mr Zuma has also come under attack from other quarters that backed him during his rise, including Cosatu. The union federation has held no punches, saying recently under his leadership SA was heading towards becoming a “predatory state”. It has refused to apologise for the comment, saying “robust debate” is allowed in the alliance.

However, both Cosatu and the ANC have agreed that the five-day Durban gathering must focus on policy and not leadership succession issues. However, the ANC has admitted it will be difficult to suppress campaigning for future leadership positions — as can be read from secretary-general Gwede Mantashe recently telling journalists that different issues are likely to be raised from the floor.

The league is calling for Mr Mantashe’s head at the next ANC elective conference, in 2012. The league wants its former president, Fikile Mbalula , to replace Mr Mantashe. Mr Malema and Mr Mbalula have been addressing gatherings jointly in parts of the country. This is perceived by many to be a campaign for Mr Mbalula ahead of the party’s leadership elections, to be held in Mangaung in 2012.

Although much focus will be on whether the ANC adopts nationalisation as policy and whether it issues instructions for the setting up of a media appeals tribunal, there are a number of other issues that the gathering is expected to discuss.

These include the provinces — whether they be reduced or scrapped, and a call for a single election for national, provincial and local government. The Umkhonto weSizwe Veterans Association wants the council to give it voting powers at the national conference. Cosatu would want its radical economic proposals — which amount to a shift to the left — adopted as ANC policy.


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