Collapse of conference 'worries' President Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma addressed a meeting of ANC provincial chairmen and secretaries at Luthuli House on Monday./ THULI DLAMINI
President Jacob Zuma addressed a meeting of ANC provincial chairmen and secretaries at Luthuli House on Monday./ THULI DLAMINI

President Jacob Zuma is concerned over the potential collapse of the ANC's conference next month, a meeting he held with provincial ANC secretaries and chairmen on Monday shows.

Zuma addressed the meeting convened at Luthuli House which was also attended by the seven presidential hopefuls.

According to two ANC leaders who attended the meeting, Zuma emphasised the need for unity and urged provincial leaders to rein in their delegates.

The elective conference is set to be a showdown between Zuma's preferred candidate and MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ) and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The race is set to go down to the wire, but insiders in the Ramaphosa camp have raised concern over the potential for Dlamini-Zuma backers to collapse the conference if it becomes clear that she has lost.

They claim this is what took place at the Eastern Cape conference, which descended into chaos in September.

The faction aligned to NDZ left the Eastern Cape gathering and then contested the outcome, pushing hard for it to be nullified at a special national executive committee meeting.

The ANC's Khusela Sangoni confirmed the meeting took place, saying the message from Zuma was the same one communicated to the presidential candidates at a dinner he hosted last week.

She would not comment on the fact that the possible collapse of the conference was discussed, but said the ANC had been meticulous about ensuring the integrity of the conference was upheld and that it had dealt with concerns.

"Top of the agenda was the unity of the ANC and to ensure that all candidates act in a manner that unites the ANC."

Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana yesterday said Zuma's freedom was on the line and that the president needed Dlamini-Zuma to win.

Ndletyana believed Zuma was less likely to face corruption charges under a Dlamini-Zuma presidency.

He said Zuma holding unity meetings could just be a cover up for if the conference collapses.

"Then he won't be the number one suspect ... he is lulling folks into a false sense of security. Nobody should trust Zuma. Nothing Zuma says about the conference is credible," said Ndletyana.

"Zuma is so desperate to win through Dlamini-Zuma. If Dlamini-Zuma loses, he will try anything ... his freedom is on the line," added Ndletyana.

Zuma, also at Monday's meeting, reiterated his view that the losing candidate for the presidential position should be a shoo-in for the deputy president position.

He raised this view at the the national policy conference and again at the meeting, after the proposal for this was first raised at the ANC's national general council in 2015.