Jacob Zuma. Picture: SUPPLIED
Jacob Zuma. Picture: SUPPLIED

President Jacob Zuma gave the first hint on Thursday that he did not back Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed him, telling SABC radio stations that it was not ANC policy for a deputy to ascend to the highest office.

Speaking to Motsweding FM, Lesedi FM and Thobela FM listeners, Zuma said it was not true that an ANC culture existed in terms of which a deputy must become president.

Zuma’s responses appeared to be a retort to party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who told reporters on Wednesday that when the party elected a deputy, it should have succession in mind.

Mantashe’s statement was widely interpreted as an endorsement of Ramaphosa’s campaign to become president.

Ramaphosa’s backers, including Cosatu, have argued that it is ANC tradition for a deputy to rise to highest office.

Zuma appeared to be punting his former wife, outgoing
AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him, saying she had joined the struggle before marrying him.

He listed her leadership achievements, including being a Cabinet minister. He said the argument that it was ANC tradition for a deputy to become president was used to "motivate" for a candidate.

"Anyone who is nominated can contest. There is no policy. It’s not true that it’s a tradition."

The president said it was a coincidence that former presidents Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki were succeeded by their deputies.

"I’m saying it’s not a policy and not an accepted tradition as such. It’s a statement that people just make, not because it’s true," he said.

However, Zuma’s supporters used the same argument when they campaigned for him to succeed Mbeki in 2007.

The president said: "It was an accident of history" that deputies became presidents.

"Sometimes comrades who are in the leadership have been making comments. Which makes it difficult [to expect ordinary members to toe the line] ... those who are senior we are saying this is not the time,"
Zuma said.

The president repeated a statement he made on Wednesday that the party was ready for a female president.

"In the ANC that is no longer the issue. It has been accepted that [women] can hold senior positions."

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