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Competition Remains Fierce at African National Congress Meeting

  • Delia Robertson

Nearly 4,000 delegates at the National Conference of the African National Congress voted Tuesday for the organization's top six leadership posts. Delia Robertson reports from the meeting in Polokwane, where vote counting is under way.

As they left the voting hall, these Jacob Zuma supporters, singing a song based on his clan name, Msholozi, made no secret about who they just voted for.

Rallying in a similar manner was this large group of Thabo Mbeki supporters enroute to casting their ballots.

While appearing less angry than earlier in the week when party elders had to intervene behind closed doors to put an end to open hostility, divisions between supporters of African National Congress deputy Zuma, and party leader and South African President Mbeki are as strong as ever.

A former official of the ANC Women's League, Sally Petersen, told VOA that Zuma, who admitted having sex with a friend's HIV-positive daughter, will never be presidential material - of the party or the country.

"I can never be seen voting for a leader who says, 'Sorry, I took a shower', who did not differentiate this is a child [of a friend] [with whom he had sex]. Please, we want leaders that will lead us further than where we are," said Petersen.

Other Mbeki supporters, such as Tshilidzi Munyai, referred obliquely to corruption charges still hanging over Zuma's head.

"We are here to elect [a] leadership of utmost honest and integrity, the clean hands who are beyond suspicion, scandal, and above corruption, who practice what they preach, who work to unite the people of south Africa, show respect for all, and fight against tribalism and women abuse," said Munyai.

But Zuma supporters such as Thando Txolo reject such arguments and say that he is the man to combat South Africa's problems, particularly poverty.

"Challenges like making sure that we build South Africa to be a true non-racial society, to make sure that we create a non-sexist society, and to make sure that we transform the economy of the country to be biased toward the [poorest of the poor]," said Txolo.

Earlier, Mr. Mbeki warned the ANC that divisions could collapse the party.

But some party elders, such as Gauteng Provincial Secretary David Mukhuru, say such divisions are natural when competition is fierce. He adds the party is already looking ahead to resolving them.

"That contestation, which is normal, part of the internal democratic process, can leave behind lots of wounded people ... so that is why we are going to need a process of healing so that the party can focus on its mission of serving the people of South Africa," said Mukhuru.

Despite these assurances, party leaders reinforced the large police contingent on site and added at least one large water cannon to the police arsenal. They may fear there may be violence when results of the vote are announced - perhaps because there has been a roaring trade in sales of a CD of Zuma support songs, including what has become his personal anthem, "Umshini wam" - "Bring me my machine gun."

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