Zuma loses out in OR Tambo region
President Jacob Zuma's re-election campaign suffered a major setback when the ANC's influential OR Tambo region elected leaders hostile to his bid yesterday.
The outcome came as the Marikana massacre took centre stage at the conference with delegates adopting a resolution condemning the killing of the 34 miners - 28 of whom came from the region.
Thandekile Sabisa was re-elected chairman in a close contest in which he narrowly edged out William Ngozi by a mere six votes, winning by 294 votes.
His ally, Jackson Sabona, was retained as regional secretary with a better margin of 299 votes to Lulama Ngcukayithobi's 283.
Sabisa's leadership line-up won all the top five positions with margins of between six and 30 ballots.
Their win is a psychological boost for the so-called "Forces of Change" grouping which wants Zuma removed as ANC president at the ruling party's national congress in Mangaung, in December.
OR Tambo is the ANC's second-biggest region after eThekwini, in KwaZulu-Natal.
There were jubilant scenes at the Khanyisa High School, in Mthatha, when Sabisa's win was announced. His faction hoisted him shoulder-high and carried him to the podium.
Almost half of the 582 delegates sat stony-faced - dejected by the outcome. This was the second time that the conference had sat after it collapsed two weeks ago when the provincial leadership disputed the election results because ghost delegates had been discovered.
Losing the backing of OR Tambo region will dent Zuma's prospects of re-election. The region has in the past supported him.
Given the results of other regional conference elections in the province, Zuma seems unlikely to have Eastern Cape's backing for Mangaung.
OR Tambo was the only region in Eastern Cape to defy the provincial decision to back Thabo Mbeki's failed campaign for a third term as ANC president in Polokwane in 2007.
But Luthuli House lost the support of the region because of alleged manipulation of nomination lists by provincial leaders ahead of the 2010 local government elections.
OR Tambo will again feature prominently at the ANC's special national executive committee meeting today at which Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will table her report on her investigation of local government list manipulation across the country.
Also under the spotlight will be the killing of 34 Lonmin workers by the police in Marikana almost two weeks ago.
The ANC has come under fire for what has been called its inadequate response to the killing of the miners.
Expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema has exploited the leadership vacuum and emerged as a champion of the grieving community.
Conference delegates passed a resolution calling for tough action against those responsible for the killing of the striking miners.
They were also tough on the role played in the tragedy by the government.