|June 29, 2007
ANC delegates favour Party Leader as President
Most delegates to the African National Congress's (ANC's) policy conference in Midrand want the president of the party to automatically become the leader of the country. This debate comes amid attempts to separate the two positions as division over the party's presidential succession race heats up, ahead of the ANC's elective conference in December.
While there are no candidates for the position of party president, President Thabo Mbeki and his ANC deputy, Jacob Zuma, are considered front-runners for the post. Supporters of Zuma believe that attempts to split the two posts are a ploy to prevent him from becoming the country's president in 2009, should he win in December. A delegate said that six provinces plus the ANC Youth League and the MK Veterans Association, were in support of combining the two positions. "The North West and the Eastern Cape appear to be divided, and Gauteng and the ANC Women's League abstained from deciding which option to choose," the delegate said.
Officials were tight-lipped about which way the discussions were going, but other delegates said option one was the preferred choice. The three options on the table also include that the party's national executive committee (NEC) chooses the candidate. Or that at the December conference members nominate a candidate for the country's president. The debate on organisational reform of the ANC was interpreted as a proxy debate for the presidential succession race in the party, with many provinces keen to curb the powers of the president. Among the suggestions was that ANC provincial executive committees nominate candidates for the premierships of the provinces, as well as executive mayors, instead of the president.
Currently, President Thabo Mbeki appoints the premiers and executive mayors. This has led to two centres of power in the provinces, where the premiers are not the provincial leaders of the party. Tension in Western Cape, Free State and Eastern Cape between the ANC in government and party leaders are running high.
In the meantime, President Mbeki has warned members of the governing African National Congress that they were not meeting to choose his successor.
"This policy conference... has nothing to do with who is or will be a leader of the African National Congress (ANC)," he told the 1.500 members gathered in Midrand. Addressing the conference, Mbeki said there was a limit to what the ANC could achieve in the time it had been in power: "It is not possible to solve problems that have accumulated over 350 years in a mere 13 years of our democracy."
(Business Day, Johannesburg/Rts)