Our take: All the ANC news you actually need to know

You probably keep hearing about the ANC provincial elections. They’ve been happening across various provinces in the run-up to the ruling party’s big conference in December, where President Cyril Ramaphosa will go head to head with whomever will try to dethrone him for national leadership.

It’s tedious stuff a lot of the time, with countless postponements, and infighting that makes little sense to those outside the 100+year old organisation. But it matters because the eventual victors will ascend to actual government and dictate governance for all South Africans – not just the 1 million or so ANC members. 

So we have to keep an eye on the ANC’s messy road to its big conference. Here’s what you need to know:

🔹The results of the party’s provincial conferences are seen as a litmus test for the battle between the Radical Economic Transformation faction (loosely aligned to former president Jacob Zuma) and the ] Ramaphosa faction. One faction wants no accountability for state capture and the other doesn’t effectively deliver on its promises. 👀 

🔹The KwaZulu-Natal conference last weekend delivered a blow to Ramaphosa’s reform ambitions. Siboniso Duma won the provincial chairperson position, replacing KZN premier Sihle Zikalala. Duma and his group are a pro-Zuma faction fighting for the step-aside rule to be… uhm… set aside. More than 2,000 delegates attended, and sang Pro-Zuma songs which included Wenzeni uZuma? (which asks “what has Zuma done?”) as Ramaphosa entered. He was booed and jeered (not the first time, poor thing) and Duma had to call the delegates to order to let Ramaphosa finish his speech, closing the conference. 

🔹KZN is in the minority, though, thanks to being Zuma’s stronghold. Preliminary provincial results are largely in Ramaphosa’s favour. Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Gauteng have all endorsed Ramaphosa to be elected for a second term, though there’s no guarantee that their provincial structures will follow suit.

The Free State is unlikely to have a conference this year but Ramaphosa ally, Mxolisi Dukwana, is the interim leader. The North West’s elective conference has been beset with postponements and is unlikely to be held this year. The province is controlled by RET-aligned Supra Mahumapelo. 

🔹For the first time the party’s top leaders will have to disclose their financial records. This is a direct response to the controversial CR17 campaign (which funded Ramaphosa election as president of the ANC in 2017) and has set the scene for many proxy battles for power. 

🔹Competition is open for the party’s so-called top six: Former health minister, the “vibey” Zweli Mkhize has thrown his hat in the ring for the position of ANC president, a direct if unlikely challenge to Ramaphosa. Gwede Mantashe, current chair of the ANC, has also declared his intentions to run again. Should he succeed, this would see him having been a top-six member for 20 years. 🦖

Ultimately however, the ANC’s longheld grip on voting power in SA is slipping since it swept to victory at the end of apartheid in 1994. Beset with corruption and factionalism, best typified under Zuma, the party’s attempts at redemption under Ramaphosa have been too slow and not particularly compelling. The party may lose its majority as soon as 2024. Now SA must ready itself for a complicated future where coalition politics will increasingly become the norm – along with all the endless bickering that this entails between governing partners. Yay. 🙄

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