AU chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
AU chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

The ANC has taken a hardline stance against succession talk, calling on both Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to distance themselves from "premature" leadership endorsements.

Monday’s call by the party’s national spokesman Zizi Kodwa followed the ANC Women’s League’s public endorsement of outgoing African Union Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as its preferred candidate to succeed President Jacob Zuma.

The league’s national executive committee made the pronouncement in defiance of a special ANC leadership meeting that barred the party and its affiliated organisations from making such pronouncements.

Zuma’s term expires in December 2017.

The ANC is battling to contain factional politics in the party ahead of its elective conference from December 16 to 20.

The party’s leadership on Monday chastised both the women’s league and key ally in the tripartite alliance, Cosatu, saying their naming of candidates prematurely served only to divide the party further.

Although it has no voting powers in the ANC, Cosatu
is a powerful bloc in the alliance and usually influences who eventually takes over the ANC leadership.

The trade federation endorsed Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma last November after most of its affiliates pushed it to take a position on the governing party’s upcoming leadership race.

Kodwa said these pronouncements constituted ill discipline and those named should speak out against the practice.

"It is divisive and they [Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma] must say, ‘not in my name’," he said.

"As leaders, they must say not in my name, even if they accept nomination later when the process is officially open."

This decision was announced by Zuma on Sunday in the governing party’s anniversary statement.

Kodwa said the ANC was currently discussing a set of principles that would define a leader or the leadership that should be elected.

"These pronouncements are undermining the effort to
foster unity.

"We call on our structures not to allow themselves to be further divided prematurely," Kodwa said.

Ramaphosa’s spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said the deputy president fully aligned himself with the statement delivered by Zuma on Sunday.

During his speech on Sunday, the president said policies to be formulated mid-year should inform the leadership discussion in the party and that in-depth discussions on the "principles" qualifying individuals for leadership should be agreed upon before any names were mentioned.

The stance on Dlamini-Zuma by the women’s league did not come as a surprise.

League president Bathabile Dlamini had reportedly named Dlamini-Zuma before she became president of the league.

The league did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Monday.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini said he had no comment on the matter.

Cosatu affiliate, the South African Democratic Teachers Union, was among Ramaphosa’s most vocal backers.

Its general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said Cosatu’s position was a "principled one" and was intended to avert division within the alliance. "What we are saying is that, to avoid contestation and division in the movement, follow the tradition of having the deputy president succeed the president," he said.

Maluleke said the ANC should not be disingenuous about the succession issue as the women’s league and the youth league had long denounced Ramaphosa as a likely successor.

Ramaphosa had not responded to this at the time, but had remained disciplined, Maluleke said. He said Cosatu was not an ANC structure but an independent organisation with an interest in the leadership of the ANC, the leader of the governing alliance.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), Cosatu’s largest affiliate, which also named Ramaphosa as a preferred successor to Zuma on Monday, said that ANC leagues had long been pronouncing on their preferred candidate.

Nehawu spokesman Khaya Xaba said that the youth league had named Dlamini-Zuma before any Cosatu affiliate
had gone public with their preference for Ramaphosa.

The youth league in KwaZulu-Natal endorsed Dlamini-Zuma late last year.

League president Collen Maine on Monday said the young lions preferred a female candidate, but had not pronounced on a name yet.

The national leadership wrote to its structures to call on them to stop naming candidates publicly.

Maine said the youth league would endorse any candidate who would "take monopoly capital head on".

The youth league would discuss the move to back Dlamini-Zuma by the
women’s league at its national executive committee in two weeks’ time.

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