EXCERPT | Spoilt Ballots: The Elections that Shaped South Africa, from Shaka to Cyril

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Jacob Zuma Thabo Mbeki at the ANC national conference in Polokwane in 2007 (Photo: Gallo Images)
Jacob Zuma Thabo Mbeki at the ANC national conference in Polokwane in 2007 (Photo: Gallo Images)

Since 1994, the future of South Africa has largely been decided not at the national polls, but at the ANC's elective conferences, where a few thousand delegates from the ANC's branches choose the president of the party – and therefore of the country, writes Matthew Blackman and Nick Dall in their book 'Spoilt Ballots: The Elections that Shaped South Africa, from Shaka to Cyril'. And there has never been an ANC conference quite like Polokwane 2007.

Opening Pandora's box at Polokwane

By the time the ANC's 52nd national elective conference in Polokwane rolled around in 2007, Thabo Mbeki was well into his second term. Political scientist and ANC expert Susan Booysen believes that 'Polokwane 2007 was the opening of the ANC's Pandora's box'. As Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said: 

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