President Jacob Zuma sits next to his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, at the 54th ANC national elective conference at Nasrec on December 16 2017. Picture: REUTERS
President Jacob Zuma sits next to his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, at the 54th ANC national elective conference at Nasrec on  December 16 2017. Picture: REUTERS

President Jacob Zuma’s last appearance as ANC president, on a stage surrounded by the outgoing national executive committee (NEC) ahead of his political report, was unassuming.

This was no longer about him. It was about the candidates competing for his position and who will lead the ANC later during this conference, which takes place at Nasrec until Wednesday.

It was impossible to see which of the contenders for the top job had the numbers: although delegates sang for their preferred candidates ahead of Zuma’s political report, not a t-shirt in sight bore their images.

Delegates from KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Free State, some from Mpumalanga and from the ANC Women’s League sang for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as she sat stone-faced on the stage where the NEC was seated.

She eventually gave a small smile, and took out her phone apparently to take pictures or videos of her supporters.

She made her rounds on stage, greeting Lindiwe Sisulu and Jeff Radebe, who had both put their names in the hat to become ANC president, before branches made their nominations.

Dlamini-Zuma looked proud as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela walked the stage, and came to greet her with a hug and a kiss. Some NEC members cheered, as if they were members of the British royal family, cameras flashing to mark the moment.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa walked onto the stage with the rest of the top six officials. His supporters had sung for him in his absence.

A group of delegates brought it back to the controversial Gupta family, singing what translates roughly as, “Don’t cry. Zuma will leave and move to Dubai.”

Mpumalanga chairman David Mabuza did not sing along when some of the delegates from his province sang for Dlamini-Zuma. His “Mr Unity” persona was still in evidence, even though the fight will be one of slates, where there can be only winners and losers.

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