Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, President Jacob Zuma and National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete. Picture: DAYLIN PAUL
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, President Jacob Zuma and National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete. Picture: DAYLIN PAUL

Continuing discussions between ANC provincial leaders in the past two months are key to ensuring the stability of the December elective conference, ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize says.

There are fears the governing party could split soon after its December elective conference because of the rampant factionalism that is bedevilling it in the run-up to the election.

The party’s provincial leadership structures have been conducting bilateral meetings among themselves in recent months to bring the numerous factions closer to each other.

The meetings have also indicated the extent of the differences of opinion between the factions and further provided an opportunity for factions to measure up their opponents.

Mkhize said the fact that provinces were talking to each other was a significant achievement that could prevent deep hostilities from developing in the next few months as factions slug it out for the ANC presidency.

The main contenders for the post are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and member of the national executive committee Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Mkhize himself is seen as a dark horse, with an Eastern Cape region backing him to be the compromise candidate.

"It [provincial talks] is much more about the improvement of the environment in which the selection of leadership takes place.… It makes it unnecessary to go out there with … deep hostilities. You can go into a meeting and disagree in an amicable way," he said. Even if there were disagreements at the meetings on the best approach to the December conference, they would not be going to the gathering as enemies.

"They are discussing proper principles, they are discussing the real names, they are discussing the real processes that are going to take the processes forward," Mkhize said.

Vastly different approaches on leadership are already emerging from the provinces in these meetings. The Free State and North West, both likely to support Dlamini-Zuma, agreed that they would lobby other provinces to ensure none of the top six positions in the ANC, including the presidency, would be contested.

It was agreed in a meeting between Mpumalanga and Limpopo, who could back Ramaphosa, that the leadership should be selected through "consensus", particularly for the position of president, and that there should be a commitment to an "uncontested election".

The Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, also aligned to Dlamini-Zuma, agreed that the conference should be characterised by "internal democracy and contestation". The contestation should, however, not "erode the hegemony of the ANC", the two provinces said.

"The feature of change and continuity must feature prominently and must find expression especially within the officials … we will support a leadership collective committed to the implementation of radical economic transformation," the provinces said at a media briefing after the meeting on Monday.

Members at a meeting between KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, on opposing sides of the factional divide, failed to agree on the leadership question in July. But the provinces said they would ensure a leadership collective reflecting the "best cadres of the movement".

They rejected slate politics and anyone associated with the winner-takes-all principle.

Gauteng, which is expected to support Ramaphosa, and KwaZulu-Natal are also on opposing ends of the factional spectrum. It is unclear whether they discussed leadership.

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