With less than a week before the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party chooses a possible new leader, the ex-wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela is reportedly calling for a compromise candidate. Winnie Mandela’s last-minute attempt stems from a brewing tension between former deputy president Jacob Zuma and President Thabo Mbeki who is running for an unprecedented third term as party leader.
Winnie Mandela proposes that both Mbeki and Zuma remain in their current positions after this month’s elections, but should resign after serving five more years.
Adams Habib is a political science professor. From Johannesburg, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that Winnie’s proposal would not gain much traction ahead of the party’s elections.
“I think again it’s an example where people are trying to look for alternatives beyond Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. Her particular suggestion was that they must both occupy their current positions giving undertaking to resign within five years. This is unlikely to win much support in either of the camps, but I do think that this is an example of a leadership figure within the ANC trying to explore possible compromise candidate beyond Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki,” Habib pointed out.
He said there are currently few possibilities of resolving the growing tension that is threatening to divide the party.
“I think there is a body of opinion calling for the compromise candidate, but I don’t think the particular specific solution that Winnie Madikezela Mandela had suggested is viable, although I think the possibility of a compromise candidate may have more traction within the ANC. Remember this is the way they’ve resolved issues previously, there has been a body of evidence that has been calling for this…so clearly there is a body of evidence collating within the ANC that is trying to look for solutions beyond Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki. And I think this is going to accelerate in the coming week, especially, given the fact the people do feel that whatever happens in Polokwane the party would remain divided,” he said.
Habib said Winnie’s proposal would not generate the needed support despite her stature in the party.
“Basically, I think if this proposal were to be put to the membership of the ANC then it is unlikely to win much support. But it is worth bearing in mind that if it were to be posed to the leadership of the ANC, then I think it could have a much more significant support. And if the leadership of the ANC were able to pull off, and if they were to present it to the membership as a collective then I think it would have sufficient traction. But on its own, it is unlikely to be able to pull that one off,” Habib noted.
He agreed that the possible leader after the party’s congress would have his work cut out.
“Yeah absolutely. I think that’s why the leadership is so concerned. That’s why Winnie Madikezela Mandela made the suggestion she does and so is the deputy president of the women’s league. I think this is what concerns them. And whatever happens in Polokwane, this party will remain divided. And the more divided it remains the more difficult it becomes to bridge the divide within the ANC,” he said.