South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has rejected President Jacob Zuma’s proposal to have two deputy presidents ahead of this weekend’s elections.
The outgoing ANC leader wants the loser of the party’s presidential race to automatically become deputy “for the sake of unity”.
Such a move would mean expanding the party’s top six National Executive Committee (NEC) to accommodate two deputy presidents.
President Zuma believes that would accommodate candidates from both factions.
Fears were that should either Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma lose, they would leave the party with their supporters.
But another ANC presidential hopeful Mathews Phosa described the proposal as “self-serving with intentions to sneak his ex-wife” into the party’s top position in case her faction loses.
“If ANC branches allow the proposal to walk, then greed, state capture, gatekeeping, purging and patronage, which are characteristics of Zuma’s leadership, will continue to be the order of the day,” he said in reaction to the proposal.
Mr Ramaphosa also dismissed the suggestion saying it was not President Zuma’s obligation to bring it to the table.
“There was a sense that all this should be left to branches because they are the repository of democratic practice in the ANC. And if you agree that branches are the real lifeblood of democracy in the ANC, then you should let them decide,” he told City Press.
The ANC in President Zuma’s home province, KwaZulu Natal (KZN), which will be sending an 870-strong delegation to the conference, has rejected the proposal.
“We only agreed to have two deputy secretary-generals and we explained it. One deputy president is sufficient,” said the KZN spokeman, Mr Mdumiseni Ntuli.
ANC Gauteng provincial spokesman Nkenke Kekana argued that the proposal should be premised on modernising the ANC and not on dousing flames in a bitter leadership tussle.
“The strengthening of Luthuli House cannot be a fight between factions. It should adapt the ANC to changing situations, to lead society,” he said.
Mr Ramaphosa obtained more nominations than his main contender, Dr Dlamini-Zuma, from ANC structures.
The two go head to head on Sunday as party delegates vote for a new leader.