Faku's re-election a blow for Zuma's ambitions
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma's bid for a second term as ANC leader has suffered a blow following the re-election of his opponent in one of the Eastern Cape's influential regions.
The re-election this weekend of former Nelson Mandela Metro mayor Nceba Faku as ANC chairman, in a region that includes Port Elizabeth, is seen as a set-back for Zuma campaigners who are eager for the Eastern Cape's backing in their drive to have the president retained as party leader at the December national conference.
Faku was re-elected unopposed after current Nelson Mandela Metro mayor and former trade unionist Zanoxolo Wayile declined nomination as he realised he did not have enough support from branches.
While Faku is seen as close to the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and others campaigning for changes in the ANC leadership, Wayile had the backing of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).
But in the run-up to the conference, Cosatu and other left-leaning formations were weakened by the SA Communist Party's (SACP) decision not to back Wayile. The SACP preferred its own provincial chairman Mzoleli Mrharha as Faku's challenger.
Mrharha did not make the cut - failing to muster enough branch nominations to meet the required threshold to contest.
Central to Faku's successful campaign was the ANCYL in the region, partly coordinated by National Youth Development Agency chairman Andile Lungisa. Lungisa, who hails from the area, spent time mobilising support for Faku and even tried to convince Wayile not to contest the leader- ship. But while Faku's election is seen as being a blow for Zuma, he is known to be a supporter of ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.
As news of Faku's victory spread on Friday night, text messages began flowing between national ANCYL leaders - congratulating their comrades for having "delivered the conference".
But as the triumphant group celebrated in Port Elizabeth yesterday, Zuma jetted into the province to monitor the work of his Masibambane Rural Development Initiative.
He addressed a gala dinner in East London last night and will be doing on-site visits in Peddie and Butterworth today.
Zuma's visit is seen as part of efforts to consolidate his support in the ANC's second biggest province - in terms of membership - ahead of the conference in Mangaung.
Only three Eastern Cape regions are yet to hold their elective conferences - among them the powerful OR Tambo region - which includes Mthatha. The OR Tambo region was instrumental in Zuma's successful campaign to unseat former president Thabo Mbeki as ANC president at the 2007 Polokwane conference.
It broke ranks with the then provincial leadership's decision to back Mbeki and opted to support Zuma. But this time around, the region is no longer homogenous, with next month's conference to be contested by a Zuma grouping and a so-called "forces of change" faction - which is made up of those seeking to have the party's deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe become ANC president.