South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party will today Tuesday begin elections to choose a possible new leader in Polokwane. The election pits party deputy president Jacob Zuma, who is widely tipped to become the new leader against party and national President Thabo Mbeki who is running for an unprecedented third office term. Some political observers believe Mbeki’s third attempt to become leader of the ANC would enable him choose a successor who might not necessarily be Jacob Zuma.
Mbeki fired Zuma as the country’s deputy president in 2005 over allegations of corruption. Traditionally, the leader of the ANC becomes the national president due to the overwhelming support the party enjoys in the country.
Delia Robertson is VOA’s correspondent in South Africa. From Polokwane, she tells reporter Peter Clottey that all seem set for today’s elections.
“As you know, the nominations for the six top positions in the ANC were due to begin on Sunday, and then it slipped into Monday, and now apparently it would take place today. There are many difficulties in the organization that they are trying to iron out at the moment, and so there is a possibility it may be delayed even beyond today,” Robertson pointed out.
She said although there are discussions currently ongoing about the party’s policies for the next five years, those policies would not likely to be different from what the party agreed on some months ago.
“There has been discussion on policy direction excepting for the fact that there was a policy conference in June of this year. And I don’t think we are anticipating there would be very many changes from the policy positions adopted at that time. But at this conference there have been so many disputes around seemingly small matters that have delayed proceedings that the policy discussions have not even yet begun,” she noted.
Robertson said divisions within the ANC are visible at the Polokwane congress.
“As you know there is a very bitter contest going on around the battle for the leadership of the ANC between Mbeki and the current deputy of the party Jacob Zuma. There were songs sung by some of Zuma’s supporters in violation of conference rules. Some of Zuma’s supporters have been carrying placards and wearing T-shirts saying 100% Zuma for president and things of that nature,” Robertson said.
She said there are attempts to try and resolve some of the disputes between supporters of the two leading contenders for the position of party president.
“Now as I understand from Smuts Ngonyama who is the head of the ANC presidency, he said that those disputes have been ironed out and that from now onwards, non of those T-shirts would be worn or placards carried. But clearly, there is some concern that these disputes could become even more serious,” she opined.