South Africa’s president heads into the ruling party’s elective conference this weekend buoyed by the news that some of his most ardent internal critics have been put on the back foot ahead of the crucial ballot.
On Thursday it was confirmed that several senior African National Congress (ANC) officials who oppose president Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid for a second term as party leader had not challenged their own disqualification from standing for election by Tuesday’s deadline. The individuals involved have primarily fallen foul of the ANC’s new “step aside” rule, which was used to strengthen the vetting process of officials nominated by its branch structures for leadership roles.
The rule states ANC leaders who have been criminally charged, or who bring the party into disrepute, must vacate their positions until cleared of wrongdoing. Among those disqualified is the ANC’s suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule. He was nominated by ANC branches for different leadership positions, but he has reportedly declined to challenge his disqualification by the vetting committee.
Mr Magashule was ruled out as he faces corruption, fraud and money laundering charges linked to a multimillion euro asbestos tender in the Free State province. In addition, former ANC Women’s League leader Bathabile Dlamini, who was found guilty of perjury in March, had challenged her disqualification by the party’s elective committee but it upheld its ruling.
The developments look to have strengthened Mr Ramaphosa’s re-election bid just days after he survived a bruising parliamentary vote on whether he should face an impeachment inquiry. On Tuesday the motion to adopt the controversial Phala Phala report and launch a full inquiry was defeated in the National Assembly by 214 votes to 148.
The report found Mr Ramaphosa may have violated the constitution and broken anti-corruption laws in his response to the 2020 theft of $580,000 from his game farm. The president has denied any wrongdoing and taken the report on judicial review to have it set aside, but the scandal has threatened to derail his bid for another five years at the helm of the ANC.
It also emerged on Thursday that the five ANC MPs who rebelled against the party’s instructions, and voted for Mr Ramaphosa to face an impeachment inquiry, will face disciplinary proceedings overseen by the its new leadership. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Mosebenzi Zwane, Supra Mahumapelo, Mervyn Dirks and Thandi Mahambehlala have all sought to undermine Mr Ramaphosa in recent years. The former is one of his rivals for the party’s top job.
Roughly 4,500 delegates will vote at the ANC’s 55th National Elective Conference in Johannesburg, which runs from Friday until December 20th. The representatives are drawn from over 3,000 ANC branches nationwide, the youth and women’s leagues, the provincial executive committees, and the outgoing national executive committee, the party’s top decision-making body.
Fresh from surviving this week’s parliamentary vote, Mr Ramaphosa is seen as odds-on to retain his role as party president. He has over twice the number of branch nominations for the position than his closest rival Zweli Mkhize.
The delegates will also elect officials to the ANC’s other top-five positions, including Mr Ramaphosa’s deputy,and the new NEC’s 80 positions.