Johannesburg- The year 2022 will be crucial in the life of the ANC and its tripartite alliance partners – SACP and Cosatu – as all the three parties are holding their elective conferences, the outcomes of which could shape how the governing party will perform during the 2024 general elections.
The ANC goes to its conference in December limping from electoral losses suffered during the recent local polls at which it lost 8% of the national share of the vote. The organization also lost majority control of six of the eight metropolitan municipalities.
Addressing the last meeting of the ANC caucus last week, its president Cyril Ramaphosa summarised what could be the factors behind the dismal electoral performance, which saw the party crushing to less than 50% support for the first time since 1994.
Ramaphosa said: “In assessing the reasons for our poor electoral showing, we must acknowledge that probably the most critical factors are those that have to do with the state of the ANC and our performance in government,” he said.
However, it is going to be the factional fights that have come to define the ANC that are set to play themselves out at the conference.
The saving of eThekwini municipality from being captured by the opposition parties during November’s local elections has become a launchpad for a campaign to block Ramaphosa from serving a second term, with whispers in the anti-Ramaphosa faction that disgraced former health minister Zweli Mkhize would be put forward as a candidate to contest Ramaphosa.
The turf war between supporters of Ramaphosa and those of suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule was bound to hurt the party beyond the conference.
Before the national conference, all regions and provinces of the party will hold elective conferences during which a picture will emerge of how the conference in December might shape up.
The conferences are likely going to be battlegrounds between Ramaphosa and Magashule’s supporters. The party is likely to spend the year 2023 and part of 2024 mending the wounds of the conferences instead of campaigning for the elections.
Political analyst Dr. Ralph Mathekga said the ANC could not avoid a bruising contestation leading up to its elective conference, predicting that squabbles and divisions in the governing party will be worse than before.
“The ruling party performed badly in the recent elections, so they desperately need someone to blame. You have Ace Magashule out, it will be impossible to avoid divisions. In fact, I’m worried when I look at the extent and deep divisions currently in the ANC. These conferences also come at a time when the ruling party has never had a big gathering in a long time,” said Mathekga.
He added that internal divisions would be severe leading up to the national elective conference. “Expect discerning voices against Cyril Ramaphosa to grow leading up to the national conference. The ANC’s will be one of those conferences which will be hotly contested.”
Another political analyst, Protus Madlala, said all the provincial elective conferences would be a watershed moment, saying the daggers were out and battle lines were drawn. “The Radical Economic Transformation is gaining ground and wants to make a comeback.
“In other provinces, such as KZN, you have ANC members and councilors who are openly defying the provincial leadership.”
The ANC elective conference will be happening against the backdrop of a report by the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele recently announced that Zondo was going to hand over his report to Ramaphosa on January 1. The report is likely going to trigger fresh calls for leaders implicated in state capture to step aside from their positions in line with the party’s 2017 resolution.
In July, the SACP is set to usher in a new era when a new leader of the party will be elected, succeeding Blade Nzimande, who has been in the post since 1998. A strong faction in the party wants the organization’s first deputy secretary Solly Mapaila to succeed Nzimande.
The SACP is also to again debate whether the party is ready to contest elections against the ANC.
Cosatu has been pushing the party to ready itself to face-off with the ANC at the polls. The trade union federation will also hold an elective conference in September next year. The organization’s president, Zingiswa Losi, looks set to be re-elected for a second term.
The outcome of the SACP and Cosatu elective conferences will have a bearing on who the two organizations will support in the ANC succession battle.
Both backed Ramaphosa at the last ANC elective conference in Nasrec.