Motlanthe 'heads succession race'

2010-09-22 21:49

Durban - The ruling ANC elects a new leader in 2012 but positioning for the country's top job has already begun with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe seen as favourite.

Although the question of who will become the next party leader - and almost certainly South African president in 2014 - is not on the agenda of the ANC's week-long policy review national general council (NGC) this week, African National Congress officials and party sources say lobbying has already started.

ANC officials say it is unlikely that President Jacob Zuma would be elected for a second term as leader of the party that has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.

He has alienated the two blocs that helped push him to power - the Cosatu and the ANC Youth League with labour calling its relations with the party dysfunctional.

Zuma's colourful personal life and lingering reports of cronyism could also further rule out a second term.

"We knew Zuma came with baggage but what we didn't expect was the open abuse (cronyism)," one senior party official said.

ANC officials have privately expressed dismay over a recent black economic empowerment deal in which black investors - including Zuma's 28-year-old son and businessmen linked to the president - bought a 26% stake worth more than R9bn in steelmaker ArcelorMittal South Africa.

Cosatu and the ANC Youth League also criticised the deal.

Market friendly

Motlanthe, 61, was South Africa's caretaker president for seven months to May 2009 after the ANC sacked Zuma's predecessor Thabo Mbeki.

He has said he is not interested in doing the job again but senior ANC leaders are backing him and analysts say he would be welcomed by investors.

"It would be a great shame if he were to truly rule himself out, though previous ANC leaders have always said you cannot refuse when you are chosen to lead it.

"He would be a very market positive figure," said Peter Attard Montalto, emerging markets economist at Nomura International.

Motlanthe has broad support within the ANC and the respect of Cosatu and the Youth League.

"There are many people in the party who see Motlanthe as the stabiliser who will improve the image of the party," another ANC official said.

Leadership tussle

Analysts say the ANC's national general council - which ends on Friday - signals the start of the leadership tussle.

"All of the jostling for 2012 is actually about the position of deputy president of the ANC.

"So if they don't go for Zuma for a second term - which is an increasingly strong likelihood - it is almost certain that Kgalema Motlanthe would be the candidate," said independent political analyst Nic Borain.

ANC sources say Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale backs Motlanthe for the presidency.

Financing a presidential campaign will not be a problem for Sexwale and ANC insiders say he is eyeing the position of deputy president under Motlanthe.

Sexwale will also be a market friendly choice but could risk opposition from the left due to his pro-business stance.

"I think there is no one on the left who can lead the ANC and that we may well swing back to the centre ground under a new leader.

Apart from Motlanthe, I think Sexwale will still be in the frame and people keep mentioning his name to me, again he would be a market positive guy," said Nomura's Attard Montalto.