President to fight to the bitter end

Waghied Misbach and Eric Naki

Waghied Misbach and Eric Naki

The race for the presidency of the ANC is not over for Thabo Mbeki, who will not concede defeat to his arch-rival Jacob Zuma.

ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama said yesterday that Mbeki would not back down. Cosatu has said Mbeki should opt out of the race after he was trounced in provincial vote lists by Zuma.

"No, things will continue in the normal way. People will be doing their lobbying until the discussion on the policies and resolutions," said Ngonyama, referring to the ANC elective conference next month in Limpopo. He said it was "possible" that branches would vote differently at the conference.

Asked if the race is far from over, Ngonyama said: "I would imagine so. The actual conference takes place next month."

He said it was unlikely Mbeki would throw in the towel now.

"I don't think so. He is a man of principle. This is not about him, this is about the organisation, and he will be there," said Ngonyama.

However, Ngonyama did concede that ANC history shows that branch members do not change their votes easily. In the past, branch members have stuck to their voting pattern, from the nomination process right up to the voting at the conference.

"There hasn't been any changes yet. But it depends on the situation, it can't be ruled out."

Mbeki has been trounced by Zuma over the past few days. The ANC deputy president received support for the top spot from seven of the 11 ANC provinces, including the ANC Youth League and the Women's League. Mbeki only won the nomination of four provinces - Eastern Cape, Western Cape, North West and Limpopo.

Meanwhile, former transport minister Mac Maharaj says the overwhelming support for Zuma shows that party members want change now.

Maharaj, who was embroiled in controversy after accusing former NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka of being an apartheid-era spy, told Talk Radio 702 yesterday that support for Zuma showed that ANC members do not want the state to be involved in party rivalry.

Maharaj appeared before the Hefer Commission of Inquiry where he was grilled on his allegations by Ngcuka's lawyers.

He was disgraced when the allegations were dismissed obecause "they were unfounded".

Maharaj told the radio station that Mbeki allowed a situation to develop where policy was being determined by what would block Zuma. This is now not working to his advantage.

An avowed opponent of President Thabo Mbeki, Maharaj is Zuma's close friend and that of his fraudster and former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik.

ANC Women's League president Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula defended Zuma's nomination saying that the league's members had a healthy debate during the voting process. But she expressed disappointment that the league could not vote for a female candidate for the ANC's top post.

She said the league will continue to lobby for gender parity up to Limpopo. She said whoever won between Mbeki and Zuma will have to be deputised by a women.