All seem set for South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party to elect a possible new leader at this weekend’s national conference in the provincial capital of Polokwane. Party deputy president Jacob Zuma who is widely tipped to win the leadership contest will square off against President Thabo Mbeki who is running for an unprecedented third term as party president. Traditionally, the ANC party leader effectively becomes the national president due to the overwhelming support the ANC enjoys.
However and although Mbeki is eligible to run for party leader for a third term, he is constitutionally barred to do so since he would have served two full terms as national president. Rok Ajulu is a professor of international relations in South Africa. From the capital Pretoria, he weighs in on the upcoming congress with reporter Peter Clottey.
“The congress is about policy. Every five years the ANC holds a conference to determine policies for the next five years. That is the main issue and after that there is going to be an elections, the results of which would be announced at the end of the congress,” he noted.
Ajulu said ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma is enjoying an overwhelming support ahead of this weekend’s congress in Polokwane.
“Nominations normally give an indication of who would emerge victorious. And according to the nominations we’ve seen so far in the last few weeks, Deputy President Jacob Zuma is going to Polokwane with a sizeable block, and is ahead of Mbeki by some 900. Mbeki’s camp has also performed a bit of robust campaign over the last two, three weeks targeting the nominations. Clever money would be on Zuma, merely by the indications of the nominations that we have seen so far. But in the ultimate analysis, the delegates are going to vote through a secret ballot. So, it really depends if the delegates do change their mind, but if they do not change their mind it is more likely they would leave Polokwane with Zuma as the new president of the ANC,” Ajulu opined.
He said although there seems to be divisions among the rank and file of the party, Ajulu sees a resolution of the rift, which is allegedly threatening party unity.
“It’s now well acknowledged that there are divisions and rifts in the ANC, and the pronouncement of different political players within the party have at least confirmed that there are those differences. But my understanding is that the ANC is going to this conference emphasizing that whatever the outcome is there should be unity. ANC is almost 100 years of existence have had some divisions and rifts in between, and they have always managed to repair the cracks. So, we expect that at the end of this conference, there would be a concerted attempt to repair those cracks,” he noted.
Ajulu said whoever emerges as the leader of the ANC would have to mend the current apparent divisions in the party.
“I think they would be pressured by the branches at the congress to do precisely that. I was watching the Zuma campaign in the eastern cape over the weekend, and speaker after speaker emphasized that fact that there should be no vindictiveness at the end of the conference. I think there would be burying of the hatchet and ANC would be able to emerge speaking with one voice, but because of the tensions and the acrimonies that this has caused, it’s going to take sometime to do the healing,” Ajulu pointed out.