Will Zuma keep the E Cape?

2012-05-05 18:29

He’s got KZN, but can he hang on to the other crucial province?

Can President Jacob Zuma hold the support of the party’s Eastern Cape heartland?

The answer is key to his second term as president, and the province is now the main battlefield ahead of the party’s national conference at Mangaung in December.

And his grip is slipping.

The combined support of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the ANC’s leading province, and the Eastern Cape command almost half of the 5 000 delegates to Mangaung.

Former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema and pro-change lobbyists are working to turn OR Tambo, the second-largest party region in the country, against Zuma.

The region votes in new leadership at the end of May – the outcome will be a bellwether moment.

The region, named after the ANC’s beloved former president Oliver Tambo, was until 2010 the party’s largest.

It was eclipsed by eThekwini, which is now the jewel in the crown. The Eastern Cape birthed Nelson Mandela, Tambo, Thabo Mbeki and Walter Sisulu, and winning it is key to any presidential candidate.

OR Tambo regional secretary Jackson Sabona denied that branches had discussed their preferred leaders, dismissing attempts to lobby them as a waste of money and time.

“You can’t say I am a Tokyo (Sexwale), Kgalema Motlanthe or Jacob Zuma person. What if that’s not what branches want? As a leader you have to follow them,” Sabona said, although his spin is contradicted by branch leaders who suggest Zuma is not an easy shoo-in.

Regions such as Alfred Nzo, Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela that have held conferences are dominated by pro-change leaders, a factor expected to sway support against Zuma.

The re-election of Nceba Faku as Nelson Mandela chairperson last weekend is regarded as a symbol of Zuma losing ground in this province.

Faku is working with the youth league to win the remaining regional conferences to a change mandate.

“I don’t think it’s wrong for the youth league to have its view, but it is quite aware there is nothing it can say to us right now concerning leadership,” said the Nelson Mandela metro secretary Zandisile Qupe.

The Eastern Cape is serially dysfunctional with perennial health and educational problems.

Although Zuma has parachuted in fix-it agents, progress is not palpable.

Provincial leaders say they will publicly state their options only in September, when lobbying season officially opens.

The Eastern Cape is notoriously divided and factional, and party leaders are trying desperately to project a unified front.

Zuma’s support remains unshakeable in Chris Hani, where ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe hails from.

“We support them (Zuma and Mantashe) in the offices they are occupying now, and we will defend them from whoever would want to attack their offices. We believe they are doing right by us as general members thus far,” said regional secretary Nonceba Zonke.

“As I am speaking, I don’t have any doubt in my mind that this province will surprise many people come December, even those who know it as fluid and unpredictable,” said Eastern Cape provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane.

He said it was inaccurate to read current elections as a national message.

In Alice on Friday, Mantashe said what happened in the build-up to the Polokwane conference in 2007 should not be allowed to develop into a culture in the ANC.

“In December we are not going to a succession conference, but a national conference where all delegates will discuss policy and elect leadership.” 

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