What is clear is that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is ready to challenge the incumbent President Jacob Zuma as Motlanthe has accepted candidacy to run for president. Motlanthe has also indicated that he will run for the position of Deputy President along with businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, current ANC Treasurer General, Mathews Phosa, and Human Settlements Minister, Tokyo Sexwale.
Regarding the battle for president, while there are no objective criteria that can be used to show that Zuma has been a good president, ANC members are expected to re-elect him because it would serve their political and economic interests to maintain the status quo. It is also important to recall that not much is known about Motlanthe’s leadership style and so nobody actually knows what Motlanthe would do if he won the presidency and had unfettered control of the state machinery. Because of his refusal to enter the election race earlier or engage on the matter, even his supporters do not know what his vision is.
Cabinet ministers themselves have expressed shock at Motlanthe’s acceptance, saying they expected him to decline the challenge against Zuma and agree to a unity plan that would have seen the president re-elected without contest. Although no names have been revealed, ministers are reported to have said that “The shock has become anger now… What makes him think he can stand against Zuma and win? Who is behind his decision to challenge Zuma?… we believe that the branches will show him.”
At the beginning of December 2012, the City Press reported that Zuma had received at least 2259 nominations which in theory guarantees him a second term with 4500 delegates attending the conference. While votes at Mangaung will be cast in secret – suggesting that votes may go a different way – Zuma is nevertheless expected to secure his second term. With the numbers already laid out, many are asking why Motlanthe accepted the nomination if he was not guaranteed a win. Sources have suggested that he did so out of principle given his strict adherence to the wishes of branches.
The position of deputy president is even more precarious. While Motlanthe, Phosa and Sexwale have all indicated that they will run, the clear favourite – Ramaphosa – has remained mum on the matter. According to sources, Ramaphosa is reluctant to stand against Motlanthe given their close friendship and common histories as former secretaries general of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
Zuma is nevertheless expected to push Ramaphosa to stand as the Zuma-Ramaphosa ticket would undoubtedly be more attractive to many members than either the (more likely) continuation of Zuma’s leadership pattern or the less likely outcome that he is overthrown by Motlanthe at Mangaung. That ticket would serve the demands of both continuity and change: effective, modernised management combined with Zuma’s authentic African leadership style, attractive to poorer and rural ANC constituencies. Moreover, because Motlanthe has accepted the nomination to challenges Zuma for president, voters are expected to “punish” him and oust him from the top six altogether which means he would lose his current position as deputy president. He will likely retain his seat on the national executive committee (NEC) however, given calls against marginalization.
With blaring uncertainties and deep-seated loyalties, the ANC elective conference is likely to lay bare the deep divisions in the ruling party. As a result, whoever wins at Mangaung – although Zuma will most likely be re-elected – the ANC faces significant challenges in halting growing organizational decay and factional divisions in the future.
Finally, while much attention has been given to the leadership battles, Mangaung will also finalise the ANC’s economic policy direction following stagnant discussions during the June 2012 Policy Conference. In this regard, the conference, will very likely adopt formal proposals for stronger state management of the economy. These will include fiscal measures to encourage local beneficiation of minerals and cheaper coal power feedstocks. ANC policy moderates and market forces should wield influence at Mangaung however, and so no radical policies should be adopted. Of particularly importance, the nationalisation debate will top the agenda including the suggested enforcement of a 50 percent super tax on mining profits.