Depending on how they vote this weekend, we could see the beginning of the end of the party.
TOMORROW the governing ANC faces possibly its biggest challenge in the 105-year history of the party when it elects a new leader to replace President Jacob Zuma.
And for the first time in its history, there will be two women candidates for the position of president and deputy president – Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Lindiwe Sisulu, respectively.
Even if they don’t win, history has already been made. But the battle will be between former cabinet minister and African Union Commission chairperson Dlamini Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, both worthy candidates for the top job.
Dlamini Zuma has a remarkable record, both in government and in the party: as the first health minister in Nelson Mandela’s cabinet in the new dispensation in 1994, as foreign affairs minister under Thabo Mbeki from 1999, and as home affairs minister under Zuma, before she was elected head of the AU Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
She had a distinguished political career in the student movement and in exile. Nobody can fault her credentials. Ramaphosa is equally distinguished as a former union boss, founding the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and occupying the position of general secretary of labour federation Cosatu and secretary-general of the ANC.
He’s a distinguished businessman and leader. Ideally, both should lead and none must be lost to the party, but the ANC is so fractured that factions have made it almost impossible to keep both – as president and deputy president.
Their fate will lie in the hands of ANC delegates, who must use their clear conscience.
They have an opportunity to save the party from itself and to elect leadership that will not only lead the party out of its crises, but also a team that will be acceptable to voters at the polls in 2019. And that’s the difficult part.
The ANC has been haemorrhaging support in recent polls as factionalism, corruption and general decay eat into its support base. Under Zuma, the party has seen a split with the formation of Cope.
We have also seen the birth of the EFF following the expulsion of former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, who has become a thorn in the flesh of the ANC.
Some disgruntled ANC supporters and voters have turned their backs on Africa’s oldest liberation movement, joining the ranks of the DA, the EFF or other parties. At this 54th elective conference starting tomorrow at Nasrec, near Soweto, the ANC needs to show it can self-correct.
The current crop of members and leaders need to remember that they inherited a healthy party from their forebears, and they must keep it together for future generations.
Depending on how they vote this weekend, we could see the beginning of the end of the party. It could die in their hands. And they don’t want to be remembered as the generation that destroyed the once glorious movement, the party of Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela, among many other icons of the Struggle.
Now is the time to arrest the decline. Ke nako.