ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe laughed off attempts by the Mpumalanga ANC to nominate an unknown presidential candidate named 'unity'. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

“There can be no vote for unity because there’s nobody called ‘Unity’.”
This was the assertion made by South African ruling party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe as he laughed off endeavours by the Mpumalanga ANC to nominate an unknown presidential candidate named “unity” at its provincial general council (PGC) last week.

On Friday, Mpumalanga’s PGC officially nominated former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to be the next leader of the ANC.

But the majority of delegates (223 branch nominations) spoilt their papers by writing “unity”, as part of a push by provincial chairperson David Mabuza to force Dlamini Zuma and another presidential hopeful, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, to compromise.

Dlamini Zuma and Ramaphosa received 123 and 117 branch nominations respectively.

This elicited confusion as to who the province preferred as President Jacob Zuma’s successor when the party convenes its national elective conference in Nasrec, Joburg, next week.

Briefing the media at the ANC’s Joburg headquarters on Monday, Mantashe ridiculed a question on whether the “unity” candidate was to be recorded as an abstention when the party’s 4723 voting delegates elect new leaders.

“There can be no vote for unity because there’s nobody called “Unity”. Therefore, there will be no ‘Unity’ on the ballot (paper). The work that is there is to try and convert ‘Unity’ into names of human beings."

“If you are nominated, you must test if you have been a member of the ANC for at least 10 years. Now, we don’t know how long this chap called ‘Unity’ has been a member of the ANC."

“So he (Unity) may be disqualified on the basis of short-term membership - he doesn’t have the 10 years required. Then we will disqualify this chap from contesting elections,” Mantashe scoffed.

He was giving feedback on what could have been the final national executive committee (NEC) meeting, which was held on Sunday in Irene, Tshwane, where Mantashe said the NEC “reaffirmed the need to appreciate that contestation for leadership positions is part of the internal democracy of the ANC”.

In what is expected to be a bruising battle for the top six positions of the party, Mantashe acknowledged that horse-trading between delegates supporting the respective candidates could be a reality, and that it would not be frowned upon by the party and might have to be welcomed.

“If (the negotiation among delegates) happens, it will be good for the ANC; an uncontested leadership instils hope to society. But if there must be a contest, we’ll allow the contest,” Mantashe said.

Branches which have been ordered to rerun their branch general meetings (BGMs) due to alleged irregularities have until Saturday to host them, Mantashe announced.

The Star