The race is on: Motlanthe has a chance

2012-04-01 08:03

ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe stands a good chance of unseating Jacob Zuma as party president in December, but he needs to work hard to convince grassroots members he can see the battle through.

The ANC is due to elect new leaders at its national congress in Mangaung. While Motlanthe is widely regarded as one of the voices of reason in the current ANC leadership, his betrayal of former president Thabo Mbeki’s slate towards the 2007 Polokwane conference could make things difficult for him. Motlanthe jumped ship at the eleventh hour to join Zuma, but some believe he had been working with Zuma’s faction while he was party secretary-general.

Eight sources ranging from national executive committee (NEC) members to provincial and regional leaders and Motlanthe lobbyists spoke to City Press about chances of success for his campaign, but opted to remain anonymous because of a gag on leadership discussions in the party.

They say Motlanthe needs to indicate he is the best candidate, undertake to fight Zuma to the end and assure party members he won’t be held ransom by ill-disciplined ANC Youth League members. Though the distributed working slates – lists of factions’ preferred candidates which usually exclude their rivals– are likely to change as horse-trading and compromises are made, Motlanthe’s name seems to be a done deal.

A Gauteng source said there was a feeling the Zuma-led ANC had become increasingly isolated from constituencies such as the black professional associations, civic organisations and mainstream churches that had defended the party’s policies in the past.

“The ANC has not been able to take with it many of the old groups that used to support it on key debates. It never used to rely solely on its branches,” said the source.

A Tshwane regional leader said Motlanthe’s campaign was “fragmented” because the leader was not showing his hand. “I can’t tell you with absolute certainty where things are. If you speak to a JZ group they’ll tell you that they want him to stay. For the Motlanthe group things are still fragmented.”

He said Motlanthe’s strictness could cost him victory because few people found it easy to trust him. “Towards Polokwane, although behind the scenes he was said to be working with the JZ slate, he never came out to say anything until he indeed emerged on their slate,” said the regional leader.

Motlanthe has been non-committal about contesting Zuma, but a youth league leader and government spokesperson said sharing a platform with Malema and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula in Nkowankowa, Limpopo last week was his way of “declaring” his availability.

Compromises need to be reached even though some people don’t trust Motlanthe, said Motlanthe’s lobbyist. “Our comrades need to be mature about it despite misgivings. Change in Mangaung is the strategic goal and we have a broad coalition of like-minded comrades who have diverse views and don’t agree on everything”. He said Motlanthe is regarded as an ideal candidate to restore “credibility” and bring back the “honour, dignity and gravitas of the movement, our country and Africa”.

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