Friday, September 28, 2012

'Hereditary Approach' to ANC Politics Will Lose Elections, Says Mbalula

Mbalula: 'Hereditary approach' will lose elections

Fikile Mbalula has rejected labour federation Cosatu's suggestion that the party should retain the current ANC leadership under President Jacob Zuma.

28 Sep 2012 00:00 - Charles Molele, Matuma Letsoalo
South African Mail & Guardian

Fikile Mbalula is the latest prominent leader to speak out against another term for Jacob Zuma.

Mbalula, who is the party's head of campaigns, national executive committee member and sports minister, said doing so would undermine democratic processes in the ANC.

Cosatu avoided what could have been a fierce leadership contest when its top six officials – including general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and president Sdumo Dlamini – were re-elected uncontested during the federation's national congress last week. This came a few months after another ANC alliance partner – the South African Communist Party – elected its leaders without contest. Following Cosatu's successful congress, Dlamini and Vavi said Cosatu's decision not to contest top positions to avoid further divisions should inspire the ANC. However, in an interview this week, Mbalula lambasted Cosatu leaders for attempting to interfere with internal ANC matters.

"I don't know what informed Cosatu not to contest, but ANC branches must not be pre-empted to adopt a hereditary approach. We [the ANC] never interfered in Cosatu's internal processes. Therefore, the internal process of the ANC must [also] be respected," he said.

"No one must be demonised for expressing their views on their preferred candidates to take over the leadership of the ANC. You can't preach unity without examining the leadership. It never happened in the ANC. We might as well decide not to bring new leaders, but it must happen after the process of evaluation. Every view must be engaged. Everything must go through the ANC's democratic processes. We can never impose leadership on members. That undermines democracy and is un-ANC," said Mbalula.

He made the comments a week ahead of the start of the ANC's formal nomination process.

Mbalula, who is the ANC Youth League's preferred candidate to replace Gwede Mantashe as secretary general, said the party needed to embark on radical policy changes, including the nationalisation of mines and the redistribution of land, even if it meant amending the Constitution.

Mbalula also criticised leaders who condemned the ANC succession debate only when it suited them.

Leadership preferences

"During the policy conference, we never saw political intervention even when people were using signs to express their leadership preferences. They allowed a section from KwaZulu-Natal to sing about the second transition. The wearing of T-shirts and character assassination is wrong. It is wrong against Zuma and against any other leader. Your credentials must speak for you."

Meanwhile, the ANC structures in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are scheduled to meet in the next few days in a bid to negotiate consensus over leadership slates.

Gauteng supports Kgalema Motlanthe for ANC president, Tokyo Sexwale as deputy president, Mathews Phosa as treasurer, Joel Netshitenzhe as secretary general and Febe Potgieter-Gqubule as deputy secretary general.

KwaZulu-Natal supports Zuma's re-election as ANC president, and wants Gwede Mantashe and Baleka Mbete to be retained as ANC secretary general and national chairperson, respectively. The province is also wooing Motlanthe to remain on as deputy president – a move some believe was aimed at destabilising the "forces of change".

Delivering his organisational report at the Tshwane general council meeting in Pretoria last week, regional secretary general Paul Mojapelo articulated the position of Gauteng that the ruling party was in crisis and needed to push for change at Mangaung in order to renew itself.

'The national general council and policy conference's documents and reports acknowledge the reality that most of the problems identified in the pre-Polokwane period have not been resolved over the past five years. In fact, things have been getting worse: factionalism, ill-discipline and infighting have reached new levels where political killings among comrades and violent disruption of ANC meetings are becoming regular occurrences," said Mojapelo.

"The provincial executive committee [in Gauteng] believes that the situation is untenable. If the ANC doesn't change the way it is conducting its internal affairs and the affairs of the state, it will lose elections.

Critical condition

KwaZulu-Natal has been hit by a spate of shootings involving politicians. ANC councillor Mthembeni Shezi was shot and killed by two gunmen during a branch meeting in Welbedacht, near Chatsworth, in Durban, on September 26. Two others are in a critical condition.

"The renewal of leadership is a ­central pillar of organisational renewal," said Mojapelo.

Nkenke Kekana, a Gauteng provincial executive committee member, said ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize have already met in preliminary talks. "We believe that structures of the ANC must engage in the discussions of the ANC leadership and not lobby groups."

KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said: "There is nothing sinister about this meeting. Our meeting with Gauteng will focus on policy issues. We cannot rule out the inevitable – the leadership approach [to Mangaung]. It is in our interests to ensure we work for unity. We are not going to plot or coerce anybody about supporting the Zuma camp or the Anyone but Zuma campaign. We are not lobby groups but organisational structures."

An ANC lobbyist who supports Motlanthe told the Mail & Guardian this week that he would be surprised if there were prospects of a deal between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal ahead of their meeting.

Thrust of their strategy

"They [the Zuma grouping] will not want to go into a contest if there is a sense that they are assured of less than 55% support of delegates. If they sense less than 55% support they will start pushing for a deal.

"For mkhuluwa [the elder, ie Kgalema] anything above 30% is good and 40% will be a solid platform for victory. The JZ [Jacob Zuma] guys are already worried because the thrust of their strategy was that there would be not even be space for a contender. The more there is discussion about contest, the more they feel they are losing. Once they see that they are getting just above or less than 50% then they will be open to a deal that says their man [Zuma] stays in office in government until end of his term in 2014 and that he is not prosecuted.

"There could be consensus around Gwede. Zuma would be open to a deal, unlike Thabo Mbeki, who was quite stubborn. He would not want to gamble on a possible loss. There is erosion of KwaZulu-Natal support but some branch members may not indicate that they are dissenting at nomination stage out of fear that their branches might not even make it to Mangaung. Whoever wins the nomination war must not believe that they have the numbers for the final stage in December. But some of Kgalema's people are worried that Julius [Malema] might bring toxicity to his campaign."

A pro-Zuma leader said officials would be elected without a contest.

"If you look at the numbers, they are clearly for JZ. This is not about numbers, but unity of the organisation. Currently, KwaZulu-Natal leaders are crisscrossing the smaller provinces, talking to them about unity. There will be no contest, not just out of convenience but as a result of culmination of engagement of ANC structures. We have to approach Mangaung with the view of healing from the wounds of Polokwane. We can't afford another bad battle like Polokwane," said the pro-Zuma leader.

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