Drama, logistical nightmares and even a court challenge marred the process right on yesterday’s deadline, as the Western Cape, Northern Cape, Limpopo and North West failed to get their nominations conferences going until late in the afternoon, and the Eastern Cape’s planned two-day conference was reduced to just a day.
Uncertainty also prevails in the Free State until the Constitutional Court rules on a challenge to the conference, despite the province finishing its nominations just after 8am yesterday. However, several senior ANC members indicated to Weekend Argus they were confident the challenge would be dismissed.
In the North West, where police are investigating attempted murder charges after ANC provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge was shot at early yesterday, senior ANC national executive committee members had to resolve a stalemate over two rival conference venues.
By late Friday Zuma had received unanimous backing from the Free State, which will send 324 delegates to Mangaung. In Mpumalanga, he scored 427 votes against the 17 that went to his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe.
A week ago KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC’s largest province with 974 delegates, announced its unanimous choice of Zuma for president, and the Northern Cape is also expected to go Zuma’s way.
In Kimberley in the Northern Cape Friday, the venue was dominated by “Phinda JZ [Return Jacob Zuma]” T-shirts, while provincial ANC chairman John Block greeted delegates with a “Viva, President Jacob Zuma! Viva!”
That means Zuma could already have 1 991 votes pencilled in, including the 45 votes each from the ANC women’s and veterans’ leagues, leaving him just 260 votes short of a winning margin for Mangaung.
These votes could easily come partly from the pro-second term provincial executives of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Free State, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. With 20 votes each, this would contribute 80. Zuma is also expected to pick up 173 votes from branches in Gauteng, even though its provincial nominations conference came out for Motlanthe yesterday.
In the Eastern Cape both Zuma and Motlanthe were nominated for president as voting got under way Friday evening.
Motlanthe has also been nominated as deputy president, alongside businessman Cyril Ramaphosa and Human Settlements minister Tokyo Sexwale.
Around 6.30pm Friday, the Eastern Cape nominations conference at Fort Hare University in Alice agreed to allow additional delegates from certain regions – highly unusual for such a conference.
It was not clear whether this was an attempt to counter the OR Tambo region’s pronouncement in favour of Motlanthe as president, made earlier this week.
While provincial, or even regional candidate pronouncements are part of the nominations process – and help reflect who is being nominated for what position – the final outcome will emerge only when delegates from ANC branches cast their secret ballots at Mangaung.
They are not obliged to follow their provinces’ choices.
Throwing a spanner in the wheel of the pro-Zuma camp is that there is no agreement on his deputy.
KZN endorsed Ramaphosa with 841 votes against 16 for Motlanthe, and Mpumalanga gave Ramaphosa 415 votes against seven for Motlanthe.
But the Free State nominated Baleka Mbete as deputy president with 191 votes against Ramaphosa’s 48. The Northern Cape backs Motlanthe, but a groundswell of branches prefer Ramaphosa.
Gauteng has bucked the trend by endorsing Motlanthe for the top ANC post, with 238 votes against Zuma’s 173, with Sexwale as deputy president.
Limpopo is expected to back Motlanthe for president, with Sexwale as his deputy, and Sports minister Fikile Mbalula as secretary-general, with Mathews Phosa retaining the treasurer’s post and Thenjiwe Mtintso as chairwoman.
The ANC Youth League, which like the other leagues carries 45 votes, is backing Motlanthe, with Phosa as his deputy, Mbalula as secretary-general and Mtintso as his deputy, with Thandi Modise as chairwoman and Sexwale as treasurer.
Motlanthe told foreign correspondents yesterday he was still “agonising” about whether to run against Zuma.
Urged to indicate a decision, according to Sapa-AFP, he said: “The question will be answered once it’s posed by the right body.”
He added: “I may not even be nominated for all you know, because the people who are making these announcements are not responsible for the process. They are doing so merely with the aim of influencing the process.”
However, Motlanthe now faces the possibility of being left out completely – if Ramaphosa accepts the deputy president nomination.
Numbers so far suggest Ramaphosa would be able to carry the day, even if the Northern Cape, and possibly the Eastern Cape, have presented the opportunity for Motlanthe to stay on as deputy.
Cosatu this week warned of the negative long-term impact on the ANC’s unity if Motlanthe was dropped from the top six officials.
Horse-trading is expected not only on this count, but also over nominations for the party’s national executive committee.