Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Paul Mashatile, ANC chairman in Gauteng. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Paul Mashatile, ANC chairman in Gauteng. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Gauteng ANC chairman Paul Mashatile, who wants a "unity" outcome at the ANC national elective conference, says his push is not about getting agreement on one leader but on a set of leaders for the greater good of the organisation.

The drive for unity comes as the two main camps square up for a final week of campaigning before the conference begins on Saturday — without either completely confident that they have victory in the bag.

The notion of unity has been associated with specific candidates since President Jacob Zuma had met chairmen and secretaries two weeks ago to push them to talk about the potential for consensus leadership ahead of the ANC’s 54th national conference.

Mashatile told Business Day the unity talks were about ensuring that the elective conference brought about a leadership that could unite the ANC as an organisation.

"Unity is not a person; when we talk about unity we mean the unity of the ANC, so we must go to this conference and elect a leadership collective that is united…. There is no person you are going to find out there called unity," he told Business Day.

Mashatile’s implication that support for unity is not necessarily support for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as ANC president, comes in the context of the faction aligned to her associating her name with the call for unity, in Mpumalanga in particular.

There is a strong lobby for Mashatile to join the Dlamini-Zuma slate — although he features as treasurer on the Ramaphosa ticket.

On Friday, Business Day reported that instructions had been received by structures in Mpumalanga that "nominated" a unity position during their branch general meetings, that this should be translated into a vote for Dlamini-Zuma at the conference. The instructions came from the party headquarters in the province, but it is unclear whether Mabuza, who has been central to unity talks, sanctioned the move.

Discussion among provincial chairmen over a potential consensus ahead of the conference has been continuing, but there is uncertainty so whether this will still be possible at such a late stage in the succession race, when attitudes on both sides have hardened.

In Mpumalanga, the ANC leader in the Nkangala region, Mxolisi Hoboyi has raised concern about national leaders who he says are trying to remove Ramaphosa-aligned delegates and prevent them from attending the conference during the verification process.

The province is sending the second-largest delegation to the conference and Mabuza’s hesitance to endorse Dlamini-Zuma thus far has damaged her campaign on the ground. The verification process is set to wrap up on Monday or Tuesday and Luthuli House can then finalise the delegations for the gathering.

Cyril Ramaphosa has reportedly raised concern about vote-buying in the final push before the conference as factions become desperate over their candidate’s possible performance in the race.

Questioned about predictions that the trend of electoral decline is set to continue for the ANC, particularly if it choses unpopular leaders, Mashatile said that a united ANC could never be defeated.

"If we come out of that conference united, working as a team, victory is certain in 2019. Nobody will defeat us."

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