David Mabuza. Picture: SOWETAN
David Mabuza. Picture: SOWETAN

The mixed slate or "unity" approach to the ANC leadership race appears to be officially off the table.

Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza, at a strategic co-ordinating meeting of regional leaders at the Ehlanzeni district municipality this week, admitted that his push to eliminate slates in the current leadership race had failed and that he was throwing his weight behind Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Mabuza had been championing a "unity" ticket to avoid a divisive leadership race that could lead to yet another split in the ANC. However, a so-called unity approach was also rejected by the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) on Thursday, which opted not to separate the election of the top leadership.

This would have allowed the losing candidate for the presidency to stand for nomination for deputy president or any other post, but this was rejected by the NEC and all the top positions will be voted for at the same time.

Business Day reported last week that branches in Mpumalanga were given the "line of march" by the provincial leadership that the "unity" position should be a vote for Dlamini-Zuma. Business Day understands that structures have been informed that the 223 "nominations" for a position of "unity" should be read as backing for Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign for the party presidency.

However, there were, at the time, questions over whether this instruction came from Mabuza himself or from leaders in the province, who are known Dlamini-Zuma backers.

This deals a blow to ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign, although he does remain in the lead in terms of branch nominations, albeit with a smaller margin. His tally of branch nominations stood at 1,860 to Dlamini-Zuma’s 1,358, but, with suggestions that the Mpumalanga position has been revised, she could stand at 1,581 with the 223 nominations for "unity" added to the pot.

Branch nominations, it should be remembered, do not necessarily translate to votes from delegates attending the conference. Insiders in the province also say a number of Ramaphosa backers had opted for "unity" on their nomination forms and were not likely to vote for Dlamini-Zuma when they cast their votes.

The ANCs 54th national conference, kicking off in Nasrec on Saturday, is still too close to call and is set to have a nail-biting finish.

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