Tokyo takes on Zuma
Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale's ANC presidential campaign has finally gotten off the ground with his lobbyists putting together an election slate they hope will help him unseat President Jacob Zuma.
The slate, which is being circulated to ANC structures - mainly in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape - ahead of the ruling party's elective national conference in December, has Sexwale as president and current ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe as his deputy.
Other names on the list are those of Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula as secretary-general; KwaZulu-Natal education MEC Senzo Mchunu as deputy secretary-general; North West premier Thandi Modise as national chairwoman; and Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile as treasurer-general.
Although Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe are still regarded as the front-runners in the party's presidential race, those lobbying for Sexwale say they are banking on what they have dubbed "the Anyone But Zuma" or "ABZ" phenomenon, which they say is sweeping through party structures.
"While Motlanthe may be preferred by many who seek change, there is uncertainty over whether he will definitely stand against Zuma. So ABZ may end up working in chief's [Sexwale's] favour," said one of his campaigners.
Sexwale bid unsuccessfully for the presidency at the ANC's elective conference in 2007.
Approached for comment on Sexwale's presidential bid, his spokesman, Xolani Xundu, said: "These are internal matters to do with electoral processes within the ANC, which is the party the minister belongs to. At the right time, upon the appropriate platform, the minister will make his views abundantly clear."
News of the Sexwale campaign kickoff comes as a TNS survey indicates that Zuma is losing support among urban voters and has been narrowly surpassed by Motlanthe in the popularity stakes.
According to the survey, conducted among a sample of 2000 adults last month, 49% of people in metropolitan areas approve of Motlanthe, while only 46% believe Zuma is doing a good job.
The drop in Zuma's popularity from a high of 55% in February can largely be attributed to the controversy around crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and public unhappiness over the government's handling of the e-tolling saga, said TNS senior adviser Neil Higgs.
Motlanthe's approval rating is higher among black people, at 66%, than is Zuma's, at just 60%.
A Sexwale campaigner based in Johannesburg said that some of Motlanthe's supporters were ready to back Sexwale.
"Kgalema was the first choice, but there's disillusionment amid a feeling that he doesn't have the backbone to stand," said the lobbyist, who asked not to be named.
A pro-Sexwale ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) member in the Western Cape said he was confident that the campaign enjoyed some support in seven provinces, with only KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga proving difficult.
He singled out the Eastern Cape as the province where Sexwale was most popular - even though the provincial executive committee is dominated by Zuma's allies.
The inclusion of Mantashe on the slate as Sexwale's deputy, he said, was as a result of party structures in the Eastern Cape insisting on having one of their own in a top ANC post.
"There's a feeling in the Eastern Cape that they need to be represented in the top six and that [Mantashe] should be up there. This is a very senior position he is being offered," said the Western Cape PEC member.
Mantashe could not be reached for comment yesterday.
As the province with the second highest number of ANC members, the Eastern Cape has become a major battleground for various party factions, who see it as key to winning the elections at Mangaung.
The TNS survey indicates that Motlanthe is slightly more popular than Zuma in the province, with 39% of respondents approving of him, as opposed to Zuma's 37% approval rating. Zuma is the more popular leader in Port Elizabeth, while his deputy trounces him in East London.
By backing Mbalula for the secretary-general position, Sexwale's campaigners hope to woo the ANC Youth League - which has been vocal in calling for a Motlanthe presidency - to switch sides.
Two Sexwale associates told the Sunday Times that he has a good relationship with league deputy president Ronald Lamola, who is effectively in charge of the organisation following the expulsion of its president, Julius Malema, from the ANC.
But a youth league leader with close ties to Malema said Motlanthe remained the organisation's preferred candidate. He said the league would only consider Sexwale for one of the other five top ANC positions.
"Tokyo is our force, we are working together as part of the change [grouping]. When Tokyo gets support, we take it as our support," he said.
Among Motlanthe's supporters, the league leader said, Sexwale is earmarked for the deputy president or treasurer-general post.