Mandela, Mbeki - and then?
Mail and Guardian
The African National Congress's powerful Gauteng provincial structures have insisted on starting the debate about who should be the next president of the organisation — and South Africa — seemingly in an effort to prevent the succession of Deputy President Jacob Zuma to the top spot after President Thabo Mbeki steps down.
Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said Gauteng was bringing up the issue because for the first time in about 40 years — since the late Oliver Tambo became ANC president — the organisation does not have an obvious successor to its leader.
"In ANC convention, the deputy has always moved on to be president, as happened with Mandela who was deputy to Tambo and Mbeki who was deputy to Mandela. But it appears that Zuma is not seen as an obvious successor. Maybe Gauteng realises that for the first time there might be a contest in 2007 and are trying to avoid that."
A senior ANC Gauteng official said the province was "bringing up the discussion because there is likelihood of a deviation from the normal succession process" and there is an attempt "to minimise the destruction and vilification" that might result from a fight for ANC leadership.
In discussion papers prepared for its coming conference, the ANC in Gauteng said: "As we move to the 52nd national conference in 2007 and the 2009 elections, the unity and cohesion of the ANC will face a serious threat due to the critical question of leadership succession at national and provincial levels of the movement and the democratic state.
"On the difficult matter of succession, the resilience of the ANC's unity is being tested and frank discussions within structures should assist in perfecting and improving our management of leadership succession and deployment of cadres at different levels."
ANC provincial spokesperson Hope Papo said the province is only proposing that the national executive committee initiate the process of discussing the succession, not trying to open the way for its leader, Premier Mbhazima Shilowa, to make a run at the presidency.
Gauteng ANC is proposing that the party map out the kind of challenges the country faces in the next 20 years. Based on these, the organisation should map the skills profile of its next leader. The leader should be someone who is "an intellectual above reproach, and who understands economics and international affairs, and who would be listened to on the world stage." Papo said it was too early to discuss names, arguing that otherwise the issue would be relegated to the levels of popularity of individuals, not guided by any substance.
A skills profile that ranks a status above reproach higher than popularity is a problem for Zuma. His credibility and suitability for high office will be questioned during the trial of his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, later this month. The deputy president is implicated in some of the corruption charges that Shaik faces.
Shaik's trial is widely seen as an indirect trial of Zuma. But, despite the allegations, Zuma remains very popular in the ANC and in the ranks of its alliance partners — the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party — mainly because of his determined efforts to stay in touch with their grassroots supporters.
Last year, while addressing the presidential press corps at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Zuma indicated he was in favour of the ANC's existing succession process and said no one need worry about who would succeed Mbeki. "Just as Mbeki could be a leader, anybody else could be a leader in the organisation. The ANC decides. No one ever says, deploy me here please," he said.
Other names that have been bandied about as potential successors to Mbeki include: ANC heavyweight and businessmen Cyril Ramaphosa; Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma; and Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel. The dark horse is ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe, who goes about his business quietly but is a powerful thinker and manager within the organisation. Nonetheless, most political analysts believe it is far too early in the race to bet any money on any particular candidate.
With acknowledgements to Rapule Tabane and the Mail & Guardian.