Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2004-10-15 Reporter: Sphiwe Mboyane

ANC Moves to Cool Talk of Succession



Business Day

Date 2004-10-15


Sphiwe Mboyane

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The African National Congress (ANC) moved yesterday to quash "premature suggestions" that there was a need for discussion in the party about President Thabo Mbeki's successor.

There has been speculation recently that there may be a need for another person to succeed Mbeki as his incumbent righthand man, Deputy President Jacob Zuma, finds in himself embroiled in a potentially politically damaging corruption scandal.

Zuma's name features prominently in the current trial of Durban businessman Schabir Shaik.

However, Zuma has received a ground swell of support from the party's affiliate structures, such as the ANC Youth League, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. These structures have picked Zuma as the next leader of the ANC and SA.

Meanwhile, some party members, including KwaZuluNatal premier Sbu Ndebele, have argued for a third term for Mbeki.

Mbeki is on record as saying he would pack his bags at the end of this, his second term.

The party's national spokesman, Smuts Ngonyama, said the Gauteng ANC document, which called for an open debate on the issue of succession, was misinterpreted to mean that the party should discuss candidates for the presidency of the organisation.

"The document is not, as has been variously and rather sensationally claimed, a proposal to begin debating either who the next ANC president should be, or who the ANC's next candidate for the South African presidency should be," he said.

Ngonyama said the document merely proposed that, among a range of other issues , ANC structures discuss improving the approach the organisation takes to issues of leadership succession.

"This discussion, it was argued, would help strengthen the unity and cohesion of the organisation," he said.

Ngonyama said the provincial structure only recommended "a broad political discussion about the systems the ruling party has for dealing with matters of leadership renewal and deployment". As such, it is a debate which was welcomed and encouraged, he said.

Ngonyama made it clear that the ANC was not going to kow tow to public pressure to discuss the issue of succession

"The process for the selection of ANC leadership, whether provincial or national, will take place at the appropriate time, in accordance with the ANC constitution, and in line with the democratic political traditions of the movement.

"It is unfortunate that the proposal contained in this provincial discussion document has been so widely misinterpreted and misrepresented, he said.

"It is similarly unfortunate that many within the media still seek sensationalism over substance and accuracy."

With acknowledgements to Sphiwe Mboyane and the Business Day.