ANC succession race hots up

Malema criticises ANC leaders "who have become arrogant on power"

THE African National Congress's succession train is picking up full steam as party structures across the country held meetings to elect regional leaders.

Most significantly, the ANC Youth League is touting Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula, who is its former president, as its preferred candidate for the ANC secretary-general position which is currently held by Gwede Mantashe.

Mbalula, speaking in Tsolo near Mthatha at the weekend, said calling for the mines to be nationalised was not a crime.

In Kimberley, Northern Cape, suspended youth league leader Julius Malema warned: "Never be ahead of the masses."

He was criticising ANC leaders "who have become arrogant on power", adding that the party's elective conference in Mangaung in December could become "another Polokwane", which had led to the recall of former ANC and the country's president, Thabo Mbeki.

Meanwhile, the ANC has decided that open campaigning for the top positions would only happen in October.

Despite this, Zuma's re-election chances have received a setback as it has become apparent that his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe intends to compete against him for the presidency of the ANC.

Weekend reports suggest that while Motlanthe, who carries the support of the ANCYL, will wait until October when nominations for leadership posts open, he and his supporters have signalled his intentions to unseat Zuma in December.

The Sunday Times quoted an anonymous Motlanthe aide as saying: "He will accept nomination even if he is nominated by two (of the nine) provinces."

However, in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma received a boost when the province's 103-branch eThekwini region elected Dr Sbongiseni Dhlomo, a close ally of provincial leader Zweli Mkhize.

Mkhize, who now appears to be the frontrunner to retain the KwaZulu-Natal chairmanship, is said to have the backing of nine out of 11 regions in the province.

Last week, his allies took control of the Moses Mabhida region (Pietermaritzburg).

The Lower South Coast (Port Shepstone) and the North Coast (which includes Richards Bay) regions are however believed to be opposed to his re-election.

While Zuma is considered to hold considerable sway in the Eastern Cape, two regions in the province have already been won by anti-Zuma candidates.

In February, Sandile Sello was elected chairman of the Alfred Nzo region while former Buffalo City mayor Zukiswa Faku won the greater East London region.

Other Eastern Cape regions - Amathole and OR Tambo - will hold their elections at the end of the month while the rest will be held in May.

At the weekend, National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa leader Irvin Jim said they were not backing down on their campaign to have their members swelling the ANC ranks.

"When we say our members must swell the ranks in the ANC, we are not asking permission from anyone.

"We have even engaged and told President [Jacob] Zuma that we want to see NUMSA members dominating ANC ranks, from branches to senior level.

"The working class must impose its hegemony to the state and Zuma fully agrees [with that]," he said.

- Additional reporting by Sikho Ntshobane, May Bongwe Maqhina and Sapa