Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Zweli Mkhize. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Zweli Mkhize. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The ANC in Mpumalanga is set to endorse treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize as president ahead of the party’s elective conference in December.

Mpumalanga chairman David Mabuza has emerged as something of a kingmaker in the ANC succession race, ditching old alliances, particularly the faction aligned to President Jacob Zuma.

He does not support the Zuma faction’s preferred candidate, former AU head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, leaving him out of step with his old allies in the so-called "premier league", which included the chairmen of the Free State and the North West.

Mpumalanga’s support will be key in December as it is set to bring the third-largest delegation to the conference.

Business Day understands from highly placed sources in the province and two national leaders that Mabuza was keen to endorse Mkhize, who recently threw his hat into the ring for the position of president.

Mkhize seemed to have been sidelined by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s camp, which was now leaning towards a female deputy. Mkhize was initially touted as a possible deputy to Ramaphosa.

However, ANC Mpumalanga secretary Mandla Ndlovu said the province was punting a position of "unity". He said branches were yet to decide on their preferred candidate.

It is understood that Mkhize was also seen as part of a group of provincial leaders pushing for party "unity".

Speaking at an ANC fundraising dinner last week, Mabuza urged the party to "go back to basics" and back to the values of the movement.

"What you have done in Polokwane, what you have done in Mangaung, it can’t be repeated. I’m standing here as if I was not party to that … but to be honest with you, I was an active participant," he said, referring to the governing party’s two previous elective conferences.

He made a stark admission that even though his faction had won each time, it did not realise the damage it had caused the ANC. "We caused huge damage. What we were doing was wrong. We could have tried to unify the movement instead of entrenching factionalism, so today, factionalism is the norm," the ANC leader said.

He also suggested that leaving a faction caused problems for those seen to be engaging with leaders viewed as opposing that faction.

"The movement has cracked. Let’s get out of that thing, let’s liberate ourselves. Liberate ourselves, go back to basics, our values," Mkhize said.

Mabuza, however, will have to tread carefully as it is understood there is strong support for Ramaphosa from a large region in his province.

He may also face resistance from his old allies in the Zuma-aligned faction.

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