News / Africa

South Africa’s Deputy President Debates Taking Party Leadership

South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Nov. 30, 2012.
South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Nov. 30, 2012.
Anita Powell
South Africa's ruling party is preparing to elect a leader who will be heir apparent to the presidency in 2014.  But the man seen as the biggest challenger to President Jacob Zuma says he's still "agonizing" over whether to go for the presidency of the African National Congress, ANC.  

Kgalema Motlanthe, South Africa's deputy president, deftly ducked and dodged the mantle of power that has been offered to him by some branches of the African National Congress.

Little is known about Motlanthe and his views, and despite spending nearly two hours speaking to foreign journalists on Friday, that is still largely the case.  

Motlanthe’s biggest challenger may in fact turn out not to be Zuma.  It appears to be Motlanthe.

"My, my, my feelings are completely neutral," Motlanthe said, when asked for his reaction to his recent nomination by ANC branches, including the powerful Gauteng province branch.

That word seems to encapsulate how different Motlanthe is from the president.  Zuma is rarely described as neutral - this is, after all, a man who said earlier this year that women should not be single and that motherhood is “extra training” for women.

Motlanthe, by contrast, has a professorial air and a skill of saying very little with many words.  He is known as a through-and-through ANC man, and he offered little information on how he might lead the nation differently from Zuma.  He mentioned South Africa's many problems - education, health issues, crime, corruption, and land reform among them - but did not offer any clear solutions.

He said he and Zuma generally agree on policy.  But he did say the ANC needed reform.

"We can't rely on the ANC's glorious history.  History is only of value to the extent that it gives us lessons.  But if we are irrelevant today, the ANC will count for naught," he said.

Motlanthe said that he was "agonizing" over the decision to accept the nomination - he has about two weeks to decide -  but then said, to the surprise of many in the room, that even if is elected party leader, it doesn't mean he'll become president.  The presidency has been held by the ANC's top official since the party took power in 1994, but Motlanthe noted that it is up to parliament to choose the president.

He has a point: Motlanthe actually served as caretaker president after the departure of Thabo Mbeki, though he was not the ANC president at the time.

South Africa's political dance is complicated, more so because the dance floor is so crowded with former ANC freedom fighters jockeying for few spots.

Motlanthe may have put himself in an all-or-nothing position: while the Gauteng provincial ANC wants him as president, the ANC veterans league shot back Thursday by eliminating him from their entire slate.  He may end up having to fight to keep his current job.  

But while he said little, he did let slip that behind the scenes, he may be a shrewd and smooth negotiator.  I'm not a politician, he said with a cheeky smile, but I have a political attitude.

We'll see how far that takes him next month when the ANC chooses its leader.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid