Zuma almost tastes sweet victory in leadership race
A dramatic increase in ANC membership figures for provinces loyal to President Jacob Zuma has improved his chances of re-election as party leader in December.
On Friday, the ruling party officially kicked off the leadership race that may decide South Africa's next president by announcing that Zuma's home province of KwaZulu-Natal had seen its membership figures jump by 86 000 to 331 820 in the space of three months.
Other pro-Zuma provinces that have experienced sharp growth in membership since January are Mpumalanga and Free State.
In contrast, the Eastern Cape, which is the party's second- largest province and a stronghold for anti-Zuma campaigners, saw its membership figures plunge by over 38 000, to 187 585.
According to figures released by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, Limpopo is the only anti-Zuma province to have recorded significant growth in membership, ahead of the party's elective conference to be held in Mangaung in December.
And this growth is swamped by the growth in numbers for the pro-Zuma provinces.
News of Zuma's improved chances came as a second survey showed that voters were disillusioned with his leadership. The survey group Pondering Panda said the results of a survey of 4190 South Africans between the ages of 18 and 34 "showed that 61% of South Africa's youth would not like to see President Jacob Zuma re-elected".
They said: "Less than a third [29%] of respondents said they would be happy to see him re-elected and 10% either weren't able to decide or didn't care"
This comes a week after a TNS survey found that urban South Africans preferred Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is being lobbied to stand for the presidency of the ANC, to Zuma.
An ANC national executive committee meeting that was scheduled to last just a few hours on Friday dragged on until 10pm as a heated debate ensued over how many branch delegates to the conference would be allocated to each province.
According to NEC members who spoke on condition of anonymity, there was unhappiness over revelations that KZN's delegation to the conference would rise to over 900 while the Eastern Cape was to be just above 500 as a result of the latest membership figures.
This was because of a formula chosen by Mantashe and other members of the conference preparatory committee to decide how many delegates each province would have.
The stalemate was only resolved following Motlanthe's suggestion that the party stick to its traditional practice of allocating a delegate for every branch in good standing.
The meeting adjourned for more than three hours as the preparatory committee worked on a new formula in line with the party's constitutional stipulation that 90% of delegates to the conference should be branch representatives.
In the end it was decided that - of the 3687 branch delegates - KZN will be allocated 824, the Eastern Cape 608, Limpopo 537, Gauteng 476, Mpumalanga 408, Free State 275, North West 219, Western Cape 170, and the Northern Cape 170.
A total of 4500 delegates would attend the conference. Beside branch delegates, the ANC Youth League as well as the other party leagues would be expected to each send 45 members, while the NEC and provincial executive committees will be represented by 82 and 180 delegates, respectively.
Mantashe told journalists on Friday night that a meeting on Tuesday would decide on how an additional 416 seats for delegates would be divided among provinces to make up the 4500.
Mantashe could not explain KwaZulu-Natal's sharp increase and the Eastern Cape's decline.
"Why the massive change in KZN and the Eastern Cape? I can only imagine. Therefore I can't give you a scientific answer to that except that there is a great effort to build the organisation in KZN," said Mantashe.
"It is actually a big province by the way, which has always been under-represented in the ANC ... so the membership is beginning to reflect the actual size of the provinces of the ANC.
"The decline in the Eastern Cape, really I can't explain it except that it just indicates that there [could] be serious underlying organisational problems that we must attend to."
Political analyst Steven Friedman said the figures showed that Zuma was in a stronger position.
However, he warned that the numbers were not an indication of how delegates would vote. "People seem to think that provinces and branches vote in blocs; they don't.
"Who knows how people are going to vote if there is an election?" he said.
With branches now allowed to nominate their preferred candidates, conference fever appears to have gripped the party.
ANC Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile was booed off the stage by Zuma-supporting delegates at the ANC Women's League provincial conference on Friday after he suggested that the party needed a leadership change.