ANC risks tearing itself to shreds – Duarte’s dire warning

When the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC and long-time veteran of running the President’s office (under Madiba), Jessie Duarte, warns that the current party leadership battle risks a total breakaway and subsequent loss of political power, people sit up. That’s because we’re all acutely aware of how Cope and the EFF came into being, the former illustrating the point more extremely than the latter. Depending on where you stand, that’s either a very sober warning worth acting on urgently, or excellent news with huge promise for an alliance take-over. Either way, you take heed. Duarte didn’t spend all that time with Madiba for nothing. A party stalwart with a stronger sense of duty and ethics than many of her colleagues, she’s passing some of the selfless Madiba magic forward. Her party loyalty dictates that she issues the warning, which fascinatingly has not been anywhere near centre stage in media analysis and speculation. But watch how that space now…I predict strong speculation on just how the ANC goes about heeding her advice (if at all). Except, there aren’t that many options, so deeply entrenched are the survivalist Zuptoids. They might be in the trenches repelling a Freedom Charterist onslaught, but they’ll fight to the death. The good news is they cannot take us down with them. Democracy will see to that. – Chris Bateman

By Sam Mkokeli

(Bloomberg) – South Africa’s ruling party is at risk of further splits amid a battle for senior positions in the African National Congress, Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte said.

Jessie Duarte

There is intense jostling to replace President Jacob Zuma, 74, as the head of the party and for other top positions, despite rules forbidding active campaigning, Duarte, 63, said in an interview in Johannesburg. The concern is that the losing group could break away to form a new party, as has happened in the lead up to or after previous ANC elective conferences, she said.

The ANC’s leadership contest comes at a time when the party risks losing the majority it’s held in every vote since the first multi-racial ballot in 1994. A split could drag its support down to below 50 percent in the 2019 national elections, giving an opportunity for the opposition to join forces to take power. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, 64, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, 68, a former African Union Chairwoman and the president’s ex-wife, are seen by analysts as the main contenders to lead the ANC.

“Since 2007, every ANC conference has led to one or other split,” Duarte said. There could be “a spoilers’ breakaway after this conference,” she said.

Breakaway Parties

Two major breakaway groups have cut into the ANC support base over the past decade. Some members who supported Thabo Mbeki at the 2007 conference formed the Congress of the People after Zuma took control of the party, while Julius Malema, its youth wing leader, formed the Economic Freedom Fighters after being expelled from the ANC in 2012.

File Photo: A supporter listens as Jacob Zuma, ANC president, addresses them at an African National Congress election rally at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg News

While Cope’s backing has dwindled, the EFF garnered about 8 percent of the vote in local-government elections last year. That helped slash the ruling party’s national support to 54 percent, its worst-ever electoral performance, and for opposition parties to take control of the capital, Pretoria, and economic hub, Johannesburg.

The ANC needs to manage the electoral contest better and should consider allowing a limited time for candidates to campaign, Duarte said. Proposals such as introducing an electoral college to handle the internal vote will be discussed at a policy meeting in June, she said.

Active Lobbying

While rules still prohibit campaigning, groups continue to push for their candidates for the December election.

“People are lobbying, there’s no doubt,” Duarte said. “Lobby groups are all over the country, big ones, small ones, bold ones, all of that is happening.”

The ANC’s women’s league has publicly backed Dlamini-Zuma to succeed Zuma, while the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s largest labor group, as well as Jackson Mthembu, the party’s parliamentary chief whip, have said they support Ramaphosa. Other leaders expected to contest the race for the top positions include Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize and Baleka Mbete, the speaker of Parliament and ANC chairwoman.

The frontrunner to replace Zuma will probably only become clear in the second half of the year, Duarte said.

“It’s anybody’s guess right now,” she said. “In August and September, the true madness sets in, that’s where hardcore lobbying takes place.”