South Africa Ruling Party Breaks Impasse on Eligible Voters

Updated on
  • More than 4,700 ANC delegates accredited to cast ballots
  • Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma front-runners to succeed Jacob Zuma

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress broke an impasse over who will be eligible to vote in crunch leadership elections at its national conference, opening the way for balloting to begin.

The 4,776 approved delegates are fewer than the 5,240 expected before the conference started in Johannesburg on Saturday. Results are expected to be announced on Monday, a day later than originally planned, ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte said.

ANC leadership contenders Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, left, and Cyril Ramaphosa.

Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

“Non-verified ANC branches were disqualified,” Duarte told reporters. “The ANC has no inflation of delegate numbers.”

The meeting is scheduled to choose a successor to President Jacob Zuma as party leader and at least five other top officials. Voting was initially scheduled to take place overnight on Saturday, but was delayed as rival party factions clashed over who had the right to cast ballots.

“It’s better to deal with them once and for all, attend to the nitty-gritties and move on with the work,” ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini told reporters.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former chairwoman of the African Union Commission and Zuma’s ex-wife, are the front-runners for the top post, with none of the other five contenders receiving nomination from the nine provinces. The race has caused deep rifts in the 105-year-old ANC and unnerved investors seeking political and policy clarity.

Zuma Scandals

The conference is taking place as Zuma’s immersion in a succession of scandals is eroding the party’s standing to such an extent that it’s now at risk of losing its majority in 2019 elections. Support for the party slipped to an all-time low of 54 percent in last year’s municipal elections, from a peak of almost 70 percent in 2004, and it lost control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, and Pretoria, the capital, to opposition coalitions.

On Friday, parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete, who had declared her candidacy for the ANC presidency, said she was now endorsing Ramaphosa.

Zweli Mkhize, the party’s treasurer-general who also campaigned to lead the ANC, will be nominated as party chairman on Dlamini-Zuma’s slate, five people familiar with the matter said on Sunday. Mkhize would compete against outgoing Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe for the position, the people said, asking not to be named because the negotiations are private. It’s not clear whether Mkhize will accept the nomination.

— With assistance by Michael Cohen

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