by Stef Terblanche

Zuma consolidates party support

Zuma consolidates party support in ANC leadership race

Jacob Zuma
Policy change main.jpg

President Jacob Zuma appears to be on an upward curve in terms of mobilising support for re-election as president of the ruling ANC. Its national congress takes place in December. While Zuma had previously established solid ground among trade union allies of the ANC, he also scored important victories within the ANC last week. 

On Monday, last week, Zuma took firm control and nipped, what could easily have turned into a serious challenge for him from Julius Malema, in the bud. The expelled ANC Youth League leader had hoped a special meeting of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) would reinstate him, suspended league secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, and spokesman Floyd Shivambu. It was not to be.

Despite some deep-running divisions over the ANCYL and related issues, Zuma is said to have taken firm control and dictated proceedings. According to media reports, he effectively blocked the attempts by Malema's supporters to have the issue reviewed and disciplinary sentences reduced or overturned by the NEC.

Some reports claim that Zuma said the sentences could not be reviewed. The NEC and the ANCYL would have to meet to lay the matter to rest once and for all. Any further appeals by the youth leaders at the ANC’s elective conference in December have also been also ruled out.

Unconfirmed reports have it that among the 20 or so NEC members opposed to Malema’s expulsion were Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula; Limpopo premier, Cassel Mathale; Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Mpumalanga  ANC secretary, Soviet Lekganyane; ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa; ANC deputy secretary-general, Thandi Modise; and Lumka Yengeni.

Besides Malema’s 20 supporters, at least 40 of the 99-member committee are known to have supported his expulsion. That leaves 39 whose preferences were unknown last Monday. But clearly Zuma had the support of the majority at the meeting.

Monday’s NEC meeting was pretty much a test of whether Zuma had sufficient support on the committee to finally get rid of Malema and to facilitate his own re-election. He succeeded on all counts.

The ANCYL will most likely still campaign vigorously for its radical policy proposals at the ANC’s national policy conference at the end of this month. It will, most likely, also still launch a strong bid at the national conference in December to have Zuma ousted.
But without Malema, the youth league will just not be the same force it was in Polokwane in 2007.

Having eliminated Malema, Zuma may just have enough support among Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) affiliated trade unions to counter any remaining threat from the ANCYL.

As assertive as Zuma’s performance at the NEC meeting is said to have been, so was his unexpected cabinet reshuffle. Addressing weaknesses in his team he was also careful not to alienate anyone who could harm his re-election chances. For instance he did not fire Sexwale and turn him into a victim despite them having crossed swords on more than one occasion recently.

Zuma can also rely on the support of the South African Communist Party (SACP) because it has staunch allies within the SACP: general secretary Blade Nzimande (Higher Education minister), chairman Gwede Mantashe (ANC secretary-general), deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin (deputy Public Works minister), central committee member Frans Baleni (general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers) and others.

The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) has managed to remain outside the current turmoil and its position overall is not known. But the league may lean in favour of Zuma’s re-election, having shown strong support for him during the recent Spear painting debacle. ANCWL president and Basic Education minister, Angie Motshekga, and a number of other ANCWL NEC members are believed to be Zuma allies.

Among the nine ANC provincial chairpersons and secretaries who are ex-officio members of the NEC, those from Limpopo and the Northern Cape are regarded as Malema supporters and are opposed to Zuma. In Gauteng the picture is less clear while those from KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga are likely to support Zuma.

The Eastern Cape, numerically the second biggest ANC province, remains divided, with especially the important OR Tambo and Amathole regions being affected. The ANC in the Free State, North West and Western Cape are also all divided.

However, with Malema out of the way and with Zuma seemingly gaining the edge on the trade union front and securing KwaZulu-Natal, the focus is now on the Eastern Cape.

Zuma has been hitting the campaign trail big-time there in recent weeks.

Finally, these developments can be weighed up against the result of the latest Ipsos opinion poll which found that 60% of all 3,565 respondents endorsed Zuma’s performance while 73% of ANC supporters polled thought he was doing a good job.

This was prior to the Spear controversy, which may have pushed his support even higher.

It is clear Zuma and his backers have been working hard to consolidate his support within the ANC. However, there are still six months to go before the national conference and anything can happen.

One of the more important early indicators will be the outcome of the national policy conference at the end of this month.

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