Top businessman respected by the masses and elite

Tokyo Sexwale, the man who many had likened to the late Chris Hani because of his close relationship with the former Umkhonto we Sizwe chief-of-staff and their love for the masses, cannot be ignored in the current ANC presidential succession debate.

Tokyo Sexwale, the man who many had likened to the late Chris Hani because of his close relationship with the former Umkhonto we Sizwe chief-of-staff and their love for the masses, cannot be ignored in the current ANC presidential succession debate.

The businessman may not be enjoying wide media coverage, but he is persevering with his countrywide campaign as the ANC prepares for its crucial elective national conference to be held in Limpopo in December.

If truth be told, Sexwale could very easily walk into Chief Albert Luthuli House and the Union Buildings as president of both the party and the country come 2009.

It is a pity that his activities as he campaigns to become the next ANC president were marred and muddied by a report saying one political commentator and one broadcast journalist had business shares bought for them to convey propaganda in Sexwale's favour.

If this is true and I hope it is not, it is bad for journalism and it must be condemned because it makes an honest journalistic analysis of the man difficult.

Nevertheless, if both President Thabo Mbeki and his fierce contender for the leadership, Jacob Zuma were to be asked to stand down in the presidential race in Limpopo, Sexwale would be the ideal replacement.

On the one hand, the ANC constitution does not forbid Mbeki from standing and there is nothing that says that a leader must serve only two terms in the organisation.

The late ANC hero Oliver Tambo led the movement with distinction for close to three decades and if death had not deprived the country of his fine leadership, he was destined to play a crucial role in our new democracy.

On the other hand, Zuma's personal shenanigans disqualify him for the post.

In the 1990s, long before Zuma came out with his umshini shouting that he wants to be the ANC president, I highlighted his attributes of being the people's leader who would let his buttocks gather dust as he performs indlamu with the masses.

But since that article appeared in the Daily Dispatch, a lot has happened and many skeletons have emerged from Zuma's cupboard.

Yes, Zuma is a likeable leader and is very connected to the masses, but his moral standing in society is questionable and if he is seriously taken through the eye of the needle a la ANC way, Zuma would not pass through it. His actions and behaviour does not make him presidential material. Indications are that his presidency will be the most controversial one.

Some ANC members in Gauteng maintain that electing either Mbeki or Zuma will perpetuate factionalism.

If the two respectable gentlemen really have the ANC's interests at heart, and considering the organisation's age-old culture of shying away from factionalism, they would voluntarily step aside.

And as we know very well, when the chips are down in the ANC, unity of the organisation becomes so paramount that individual interests are usually cast aside for the sake of that unity. At every conference, the question of organisational unity tops the discussion commissions, and predictably this will be the case again in Limpopo, although it will be harder to achieve this time around.

Sexwale fits in where both Zuma and Mbeki don't. He is a principled cadre of the movement and possesses the rare ability to mingle with both the masses and the elite of the country.

As a dark horse in the presidential race, he may spring a surprise, if sanity prevails in Limpopo.

Sexwale is making visible inroads in the Eastern Cape - a province that is traditionally Mbeki's support base. He frequents the province where he has gained a sizeable support in Nelson Mandela and parts of the Amathole regions, two influential regions in the province.

Last week, Sexwale spoke at a rally at Berlin, a semi-rural place where neither Mbeki nor Zuma ever thought of visiting. Campaign posters bearing his portrait and declaring "Tokyo for president" adorned lamp-posts throughout East London and King William's Town.

Thobile "Star Black" Melude, one of Sexwale's organisers in Berlin, said: "Tokyo is a very good comrade who's capable of taking the ANC and the country forward. He's disciplined and has the capacity to unite the ANC."

Melude said not only ANC members at Amathole supported Sexwale, but the businessman enjoys a huge following in other parts of the province as well.

"Some ANC members in other regions support Sexwale, but are silent at this stage," said Melude.

Before the current factional fights developed and Zuma came forward to boldly say he will be the next president come rain or shine, the ANC was said to be grooming Joel Netshitenzhe as the future president of the organisation. It also intends to elevate a woman or two to the top to address gender equity.

Noting that just about anyone nowadays can nominate "preferred" ANC leaders, my preferred top six excludes Mbeki, Zuma and Sexwale. I would elect Netshitenzhe as president, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe as national chairman, Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele as secretary-general, Thoko Didiza as deputy secretary-general and Jabu Moleketi as treasurer-general.

All these men and women are tried and tested leaders with skills to do their jobs and they all have good track records in the ANC. Also, the list is not tainted with factionalists.