South Africa’s Eastern Cape, a thorn in Zuma’s side

Published on The African Report, Oct. 12, 2012.

Voters in Eastern Cape are deeply divided: as many as 80% could vote for Motlanthe (right) in a run-off against Zuma (left).

Yet the near 100% support for Zuma from KwaZulu-Natal gives him a head start over his rivals – Kgalema Motlanthe and Tokyo Sexwale – behind whom the “Anyone but Zuma” (ABZ) campaign is throwing its support. Even if Eastern Cape swings fully behind Motlanthe and Sexwale, the ABZ faction still has a mountain to climb in its bid for sweeping changes in the ANC’s national leadership.



ubilant at this victory, the ‘ABZ’ activists claimed that they had stopped attempts to undermine the party’s democratic processes after officials had presided over a comprehensive flouting of party rules. The disputes over party elections in OR Tambo follow similar rows in Mpumlalanga and the Free State, where the election of officials backing Zuma was challenged. In the Free State the dispute is still before the courts.

ANC and trade union leaders in the Eastern Cape concede that the party will go divided to the Mangaung conference, but some play down the issue. Says ANC provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane: “It will be divided, yes. There are local dynamics, where people are fighting for space and opportunities. But that is in its very nature. The ANC is contested terrain.” Cosatu’s Mandla Rayi agrees. “It is a divided province … but there are always interest groups in any organisation.”

Mabuyane told The Africa Report that there might not even be a leadership contest in Mangaung, suggesting that Zuma could be re-elected unopposed. Certainly, Deputy President Motlanthe is proving a very cautious challenger to Zuma.

Motlanthe’s supporters say he is determined to make the leadership debate a matter of principle not personality. The more flamboyant Sexwale has been far less restrained in his pointed criticism of the incumbent party leadership. Relations between Motlanthe and Sexwale remain rather opaque, as does their strategy for the Mangaung conference.

Yet Zuma’s re-election campaign is in trouble in the Eastern Cape. At least four regions – OR Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Cacadu and Buffalo City – have voted in leaders who oppose a second term for Zuma as ANC President.

All this comes as the Eastern Cape ANC is still slowly recovering from the effects of the breakaway of COPE in 2008 following Mbeki’s defeat at Polokwane. According to Zandisile Qupe, ANC regional secretary for the Nelson Mandela metro, “When COPE was formed, the ANC in the metro lost its entire top leadership and had to start from scratch. In 2008 it was left with 10,000 members and now four years later we have got it back to 24,000 members.”


COPE, however, has functioned poorly as an opposition party, and lost votes during the last municipal elections. The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) is taking renewed hope from COPE’s retreat and the ANC’s in-fighting. The provincial assembly in the former Ciskei capital of Bhisho has 63 seats, of which the ANC has 44, COPE has nine and the DA just six.

But provincial DA leader Bobby Stevenson remains optimistic. “The DA won 40% of the vote in the last Nelson Mandela Bay municipal elections, and we are convinced we can win it next time round. We have gone from six councillors DA leader Bobby Stevenson to 16 in the old Transkei during the last local elections and went from 100 to 178 councillors province-wide.”

Stevenson claims voters are tired of what he calls the ANC’s “hand-outs” approach, and that they recognise the failure of the party’s cadre-deployment policy to ensure that the right people are in the right jobs in Eastern Cape government. “I am confident we can take the province. Maybe not in 2014, but certainly in 2019.”

He believes a large percentage of that vote will come from younger Xhosa speakers. With the party polling just 225,000 votes in the Eastern Cape in the last general election in 2009 compared with the ANC’s 1.5m, there is much work ahead.

Zuma has deployed heavyweight politicians such as Secretary General Gwede Mantashe to the province and other senior officials have presided over visits to “donate” cattle and tractors as the Mangaung conference nears.

With ANC delegates in KwaZulu-Natal unanimously behind Zuma, his strategists calculate that if they get just half of the Eastern Cape delegates’ vote they would still be set for victory.

With the loss of four regions in the province that forecast might now be questionable. Add to that a growing mood of scepticism over Zuma’s leadership, doubts about the government’s ability to deal with unemployment and worsening social divisions, and it seems the ANC leadership battle has been thrown wide open again.
(full text).


African National Congress ANC on the own website, and on en.wikipedia;

Uganda: A vision with two tales, on The African Report, October 9, 2012.

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