Zuma, Mkhize meet ahead of conference

2017-12-10 05:53
Cde Zweli Mkhize was a keynote speaker at the Free State Cadres Assembly in Parys. (Twitter)

Cde Zweli Mkhize was a keynote speaker at the Free State Cadres Assembly in Parys. (Twitter)

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President Jacob Zuma, presidential hopeful Zweli Mkhize and the KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee have met on the eve of the ANC’s elective conference to discuss what could be a realignment of slates.

The ANC has, so far, failed to broker a consensus among the presidential hopefuls, which would see an uncontested conference and avoid what is promising to be a bruising battle. This is amid fears that the party could fracture.

Insiders said Mkhize and Zuma had a fruitful meeting and that the provincial top brass accepted the outcome.

KwaZulu-Natal has been a kingmaker at ANC conferences because it brought the biggest delegation. It has been split three ways between those who support Mkhize, ANC MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to replace Zuma.

While this week’s provincial general council (PGC) officially nominated Dlamini-Zuma to succeed Zuma, this latest engagement fuelled speculation that Mkhize could emerge at the conference and upset the leading contenders – Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma.

Provincial chairperson Sihle Zikala said Dlamini-Zuma remained the preferred candidate, in line with the outcomes of the PGC.

“What is important from that meeting is that we must go to conference together. That, however, does not change the decisions we have taken regarding leadership in the province. If it’s about accommodating each other, we can talk about that. For now, we have our position.”

- Visit our special report, #ANCVotes, for all the news, analysis and opinions about the ANC’s national elective conference.

Asked about the possibility of Mkhize emerging as a contender with nominations from the floor at the elective conference – which would require the support of 25% of delegates – Zikala said “we will not support that”.

An ambitious Mkhize has failed to garner enough support to be nominated at the PGC. He said it was important for himself and Zuma to present a united front as former leaders in the embattled province. Mkhize has been on a crusade for ANC unity across the country.

“We have been engaging with a view to help and defuse tensions and avoid any political differences being personalised and therefore to encourage the KwaZulu-Natal leaders and members to discuss their preferences amicably so that their views do not add up to tensions that can spill over to the conference.

“We have always been available to support the leadership in the province because of the fact that we have led there and are part of the national leadership.”

He said the tensions which arose from the KwaZulu-Natal ANC’s 2015 elective conference had to be resolved, along with court cases and other disputes.

“If we want a message of unity to be felt, it needs to be felt in each and every province. Everyone must subject themselves to a process of contributing to bringing unity.”

Mkhize said efforts were being made to talk to supporters of former provincial chairperson and Ramaphosa’s chief campaigner Senzo Mchunu, who has been nominated for the position of ANC secretary-general on the Ramaphosa slate.

“The answer in uniting KwaZulu-Natal lies in us being able to sit together to thrash out the problems. That will make a huge contribution to a stable conference and a stable and united KwaZulu-Natal beyond this conference.”

Those close to Mkhize say he is not worried about failing to secure a presidential nomination. Mkhize, who is the ANC’s outgoing treasurer-general, was nominated only by the Eastern Cape to serve as Ramaphosa's deputy. His lobbyists are however confident they can muster enough support for him on the conference floor.

In recent months, Mkhize has been seen as the face of a third way between Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma. This is being championed by Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile and his Mpumalanga counterpart David Mabuza. Gauteng nominated Lindiwe Sisulu to be Ramaphosa’s deputy. In a shock move, an overwhelming majority nominated “unity” in Mpumalanga, which brings the second biggest delegation to the conference. The 223 so-called unity nominations give Mabuza a semblance of kingmaker status.

Mkhize has fought to dispel rumours that he is Zuma’s plan B in the event that Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign falters. Zuma and Mkhize had a falling out when the president replaced then finance minster Nhlanhla Nene with little-known ANC backbencher Des van Rooyen in December 2015. It is believed that they have since made up. This latest development could resuscitate the suspicion that Dlamini–Zuma is a decoy.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  zweli mkhize  |  anc leadership race  |  anc votes  |  politics

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