from Africa in Transition

ANC Party Politics and the Upcoming Convention

October 24, 2012

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Politics and Government

South Africa

Elections and Voting

Heads of State and Government

Politics within South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) is focused on the upcoming December party convention for the party presidency. The political maneuvering is focused on nominees for party positions, but also looks over its shoulder at the national presidency and vice presidency nominations for the 2015 elections. Voting in South African national elections largely remains a racial census. The ANC candidates for presidency and vice presidency can count on support from most of the country’s black population, making victory for its nominees in national elections almost a foregone conclusion. Africa Confidential has published an excellent primer on the current state of play inside the ANC.

Zuma faces a serious challenge for the party leadership from the vice president, Kgalema Motlanthe, and, possibly, billionaire businessman Cyril Ramaphosa. But neither Motlanthe nor Ramaphosa have yet declared themselves candidates for the party presidency. A possible deal between the Zuma and Motlanthe campaigns might have Motlanthe not run against Zuma for the party presidency in December in return for a promise of the ANC nomination to be president of the country in 2015. Many of Zuma’s supporters, however, think they can deliver the party presidency in December without compromising Zuma’s prospective 2015 nomination as the party’s national presidential candidate. This is based on a consideration of how ANC delegates are likely to vote at the December convention. Under present circumstances, Africa Confidential thinks Zuma will prevail in December. I share that view.

The struggle between Zuma, Motlanthe, Ramaphosa, and a number of other ANC political figures for other top party positions appears to be an inside-the-party fight for power without much reference to principle, vision, or to South Africa’s immediate challenges, such as unrest in the mining industry, the decline in the value of the rand, and the lowering of the country’s credit rating. Party politics seem symbolic of the unfortunately increasing detachment of the ANC from the everyday concerns of most South Africans.