JOHANNESBURG- South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) is holding hundreds of branch meetings as grassroots members nominate candidates to take over from President Jacob Zuma as party chief in December.
The frontrunners are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former chair of the African Union and Zuma’s ex-wife, but with several other senior ANC figures running, the contest is too close to call.
The ANC’s next leader will probably become president in 2019 given the party’s electoral dominance. First they face the tough task of winning back voters disillusioned with Zuma’s rule and investors spooked by ratings downgrades.
The fractious, sometimes violent, branch meetings start the decisive final stretch of the race to succeed Zuma, whose rule has been marred by corruption allegations and a sharp economic slowdown.
Ramaphosa, a former union leader and one of the country’s richest people, is viewed more favourably by foreign investors, who help cover the country’s deficits. Many of them are unsettled by Dlamini-Zuma’s calls to radically redistribute wealth and change the ownership structure of the central bank.
Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign teams did not reply to requests for comment on reports of intimidation and manipulation of the nomination process in some provinces.
“The real fight is in December, but psychologically the battle for the soul of the ANC has begun,” said Stan Itshegetseng, who chaired a branch meeting in the Diepkloof district of the sprawling Soweto township on Sunday.
It took 11 hours for Itshegetseng’s branch of over 320 members to nominate Ramaphosa for ANC president, recommend more than 20 other officials for the party’s National Executive Committee and agree on a delegate to send to the December party conference.
Nominations in the branches matter because they send 90 percent of the more than 5,000 delegates who will vote in December. Branch meetings started last month and are due to end in mid-November.-REUTERS