Jacob Zuma. Picture: THE HERALD
Jacob Zuma. Picture: THE HERALD

The proposal by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe to change the voting process at this weekend’s ANC national conference to one where delegates vote for the party president and the deputy president separately, has been shot down by both sides, reducing the chances of a unified slate at the conference.

This idea was first proposed by President Jacob Zuma at the national policy conference, when he suggested that the losing candidate become the party’s deputy president.

Zuma has been pushing a "unity outcome" and has met the presidential candidates and provincial chairpersons to win their support for this approach.

The ANC’s last national executive committee meeting before the conference, held on Thursday, decided on a single election for all positions, including president and deputy president.

ANC economic policy chief Enoch Godongwana, briefing journalists at Nasrec on Thursday, said there was no agreement on the voting process, which would first have to be endorsed by the conference. He said he believed the proposal "had not gained traction" from either side in the contest.

This was confirmed by a member of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s caucus. Gondongwana is aligned to the Cyril Ramaphosa campaign.

The uncertainty over the voting process will affect the time when the result of the presidential election is announced. While it had been expected on Sunday, it may now be later.

Godongwana also expressed some concern about the effect of the conference on financial markets, saying the rand would react for the first time when the new leader of the ANC was elected. He believed the rand would react badly if the market did not like the leader, but it would stabilise as "we go out and communicate [policies]".

Currency analysts expect a 50c strengthening in the rand should Ramaphosa win, whereas expectations are that rand losses would be in the order of 100c to 200c to the dollar should Dlamini-Zuma win.

The conference is being watched closely for potential policy shifts, but the most important signal will be who becomes president. The market favours Ramaphosa as it is believed he will restore good governance to state institutions and state-owned enterprises.

The policy stances of the power brokers behind Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign have rattled investors, due to their populism on land, the Reserve Bank and mining. Tumisho Grater, an economic strategist at Novare Actuaries, said the rand had been an outperformer in the lead-up to the ANC conference.

Although some of the rand gains appeared to be reflecting that the markets might be anticipating a more market-friendly outcome, that was not to say that this had been completely priced in, he said. It was still possible to see the rand gain further traction should the market-preferred candidate win.

The largely two-horse race between Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa has invited intense interest from foreign investors and the local business community, and is also being watched closely by ratings agencies, due to the decline in confidence in the economy, the government and the ANC after the tumult in the Treasury since Nhlanhla Nene’s removal in 2015.

Among the policy issues that remain contentious, the issue of land redistribution tops the agenda. Godongwana said the land question was "the most threatening issue" as its outcome could have implications across the economy. "This has nothing to do with the candidate, it’s got to do with our failure to deal with the land question over the last two decades."

Delegates will begin arriving at Nasrec on Friday. However, it is unclear whether the more than 400 delegates from the Free State will attend.

The High Court in Bloemfontein was hearing an urgent interdict application on Thursday. Four ANC members were trying to stop the Free State delegates from attending the national conference. Judgment had not been handed down at the time of going to print.

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