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Below are the profiles of the main role-players in the run-up to the Free State conference, which will be held from Sunday to Friday.
Jacob Zuma is president of the African National Congress and President of the Republic of South Africa, and will stand for a second term as ANC president.
He was born on April 12, 1942, in the village of KwaNxamalala, in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
in 1959, Zuma migrated to Mkhumbane (Cato Manor) where he joined the SA Congress of Trade Unions (Sactu) and had his first opportunity to obtain an education, through a Sactu night school.
He was recruited to Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) by struggle stalwart Moses Mabhida in the 1960s.
In 1963, at the age of 21, he was convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government and was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.
On his release, he became involved in building the ANC’s underground structures, recruiting young people for military training.
In 1987, he was appointed head of underground structures and chief of the ANC’s intelligence department.
Zuma played a pivotal role the negotiations which led to South Africa’s first democratic elections.
In 1994, he served as KwaZulu-Natal economic affairs and tourism MEC, and in 1999 was appointed as the country’s deputy president, a position he held until being relieved of his duties in 2005 by the then president Thabo Mbeki.
Ramaphosa is a businessman, lawyer, ANC national executive committee (NEC) member and chairman of the party’s national disciplinary committee of appeal.
He has received the majority of the nominations for deputy president, but it is not yet clear whether he will accept.
Ramaphosa was born on November 17, 1952, in Soweto, south of Johannesburg.
He started his political career in the trade unions, becoming the first general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in 1982. He became secretary-general of the ANC in 1991.
Ramaphosa was part of the ANC team which negotiated the end of apartheid with the National Party government. He also chaired the Constitutional Assembly, which drafted South Africa’s Constitution in 1994.
In 1997, Ramaphosa resigned from politics and moved to the private sector amid criticism of some of his business interests.
Among other things, he is executive chairman of the Shanduka Group, a company he founded in 2000, and is the developmental licensee of McDonald’s South Africa.
Ramaphosa is also a director at Lonmin, the owner of the platinum mine in Marikana, North West, which lost 34 striking workers in a police shooting on August 16.
Mantashe, who is the sitting ANC secretary-general, was born in the Eastern Cape in 1955.
He comes from a trade union background: he became the Witbank branch chairman of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in 1982; and was elected NUM regional secretary in 1985. Mantashe served as assistant general secretary of the NUM from 1994 until 1998, when he was elected general secretary. He became a local government councillor in 1995 and served until 1999.
In May 2006, he stepped down as NUM general secretary and was succeeded by Frans Baleni. In 2007, Mantashe was elected chairman of the ANC’s ally, the SA Communist Party (SACP), and served as a member of the party’s central committee. At the ANC’s national conference in Polokwane in 2007, Mantashe succeeded the party’s deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe as secretary-general. Mantashe had been nominated to retain his position as secretary-general.
Jessie Yasmin Duarte, born in 1953, is a member of the ANC’s communications team. She has been nominated to take over the position of deputy secretary-general from Thandi Modise.
A long time anti-apartheid activist, Duarte was detained without trial in 1988, and was released and placed under restriction orders until the State of Emergency was lifted. She was a special assistant to former president Nelson Mandela, was MEC for Gauteng, and ambassador to Mozambique.
She resigned from the presidency in 2010.
Mbete was born in Clermont township, Durban, on September 24, 1949.
She lived with her grandmother in Pietersburg until starting school, and matriculated from the Inanda Seminary.
She worked in sales in Durban from 1969 to 1971, before attending the Lovedale Teacher Training College, from 1972 to 1973.
She taught English and Afrikaans in Inanda between 1974 and 1975, but was constantly harassed by security police.
Mbete fled to Swaziland in May 1976 to join the ANC.
She returned to South Africa in 1990 and was elected secretary-general of the ANC Women’s League in 1991.
She was served as deputy president of South Africa when Kgalema Motlanthe took over from former president Mbeki in 2008.
Mbete held the position of Speaker of National Assembly between 2004 and 2008.
She was elected party chairwoman at the 2007 Polokwane conference and was deployed to the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters. She has been nominated to retain her position.
KwaZulu-Natal premier Zweli Mkhize may rise to join the top six position as treasurer general at Mangaung.
He has received a huge support from the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal and Free State regions.
Mkhize was born on February 2, 1956, in Willowfontein, Pietermaritzburg, and became a medical doctor.
He became a member of the ANC’s NEC in 1997, and is the party’s KwaZulu-Natal chairman.
He served as KwaZulu-Natal health MEC from 1994 to 2004, as finance and economic development MEC from 2005 to 2009, and became premier in 2009.
He chairs the ANC’s national education and health sub-committee, and chaired the 2010 Soccer World Cup political oversight committee.
After months of speculation, it was announced that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe will run against President Jacob Zuma for the presidency of the ANC.
Motlanthe was nominated for the position by Limpopo, the Western Cape and Gauteng, and by the ANC Youth League.
He has also accepted nominations for deputy president and for NEC member.
He is the preferred candidate for ANC members calling for a change in leadership.
Motlanthe was born on July 9, 1949, in Alexandra, Johannesburg.
He was recruited to MK in the 1970s and became involved in smuggling MK cadres in and out of the country via Swaziland.
In April 1976, he was arrested and spent 11 months at John Vorster Square (now the Johannesburg Police Station) in central Johannesburg.
In 1977, he was found guilty of three charges under the Terrorism Act and was sentenced to 10 years on Robben Island. He was released in 1987.
On his release, he started working for the NUM of which he was elected general secretary in 1992.
In 1997, he was elected ANC secretary-general, a position he held for 10 years.
He was elected deputy president at Polokwane in 2007 and served as president of the country from 2008 to 2009, after former president Thabo Mbeki was recalled.
At the end of his presidency, he was appointed deputy president of South Africa, a position he still holds.
Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, who is also a businessman, has been nominated for both the positions of deputy president and treasurer-general.
Sexwale was born on March 5, 1953, in Johannesburg. He lived in Soweto and matriculated from the Orlando West High School.
Sexwale joined the ANC underground structure in the 1970s and was an MK soldier. He went into exile in 1975 to undergo military training in the Soviet Union, specialising in army engineering.
On his return to South Africa in the late 1970s, he was arrested after a run-in with the security forces and, with 11 other activists, was charged with terrorism and conspiracy to overthrow the government.
In 1978, he was convicted and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment on Robben Island. He was released 13 years into his term.
Four months after his release in 1990, he was elected to the executive committee of the ANC’s PWV (now Gauteng) region.
In October 1991, he was elected as ANC chairman of the region — a post to which he was re-elected three times.
In 1994, he was appointed premier of Gauteng.
After leaving the public sector, Sexwale founded Mvelaphanda Holdings, which is primarily focused on the mining, energy and related sectors.
Zuma appointed him to his Cabinet in 2007.
Mathews Phosa, who is ANC treasurer general, has been nominated for the position of deputy president by the ANC’s Limpopo and Western Cape regions.
He was born on September 1, 1952, in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, and is an attorney.
He became the first premier of Mpumalanga after the 1994 democratic elections, and held the position until 1999.
Phosa was elected as an NEC member in 1999 and was chosen as treasurer general at the Polokwane conference.