THE ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay has thrown its weight behind President Jacob Zuma to be re-elected for the party's top job in December.
This is against the wishes of regional leader Nceba Faku, who is punting Kgalema Motlanthe for party president.
Regional secretary Zandisile Qupe said yesterday the Bay's leadership decided overwhelmingly at a meeting on Sunday that Zuma and secretary-general Gwede Mantashe should be re-elected in Mangaung.
Nelson Mandela Bay is the second region after the King Sabata Dalindyebo subregion to push for Zuma's re-election.
It also joins the ANC Women's League and provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State who are working to ensure that Zuma holds on to his job.
"The REC [regional executive committee] met on Sunday and we did our critique and finally came to the decision to support Zuma and Mantashe for re-election to ensure growth and stability of the organisation."
Qupe said the decision was communicated on Monday night to branch members who would then debate and make a decision to be finally adopted at a special regional general council before Mangaung.
He said the choice was based on the work Zuma and Mantashe had done to boost the ANC. He downplayed the fact that the two had presided over a 38000 drop in the ANC's membership in the Eastern Cape.
"We had a goal to, by January 8 this year, reach one million members [nationally]. The party has passed that number and, although there are challenges, we do not need a new leadership [to overcome those]."
The REC's Mangaung line-up proposes Motlanthe as deputy president if he chooses not to stand for the presidency.
However, if he did, they would back Cyril Ramaphosa for the deputy president post, Qupe said.
Faku said yesterday he was not yet ready to pronounce on his preferred candidate for the top ANC post.
"I'm still assessing things before I can come out and speak to the media, and I hope you will respect that. I will make my pronouncement at a later stage."
However, in a list punted by Faku on Facebook this week, he placed Motlanthe as president, Tokyo Sexwale as deputy president and Mantashe as secretary-general.
Qupe dismissed Faku's Facebook line-up yesterday, saying despite what some members might have hoped for, the decision of the REC to support a Zuma presidency stood.
"We are now expecting branches to make up their minds. Having done that, we will then go to influence other regions before we go to Mangaung. We are firm and solid behind Zuma."
He said the branches would also be asked to discuss a proposal to have at least two members from the Bay elected to the national executive committee (NEC) – the ANC's highest decision-making body between conferences.
While the branches would decide on who would be nominated for the NEC, they would propose that Faku, MP Stone Sizani and Safety and Security MEC Helen Sauls- August be considered.
The regional ANC Youth League also called for the inclusion of Bay leaders in the NEC, but reaffirmed its backing of Motlanthe.
Regional youth league chairman Sandiso Makwetu said they believed Motlanthe would be able to restore dignity in the party.
"Zuma's leadership has seen a demise in the African agenda. He showed a lack of leadership with the Marikana incident and he is also increasing tribalism in government," he said.
"The ANC has lost its moral charge ... The president is wounded and he must go and rest.
"We cannot go to the national elections with a person that's lost his moral structure. We are looking for change."
Speaker Maria Hermans said she would push for Zuma's election when debating the issue in her branch.
"Zuma is pro-poor. He relates to the poor. He relates to the working class. He knows that there are people who sleep with no food and he works hard for their lives to be changed. For him, it is always about the ANC and never about himself."
Another ANC member said he was happy with Zuma's leadership style and that he had done a lot to improve the lives of South Africans.
A New Brighton branch member said: "My branch is very divided. We are still going to have a meeting to discuss it. Most of the branches are talking about supporting Zuma, but it is split so it could go either way."
Political analyst Professor Somadoda Fikeni, from the Walter Sisulu University, said there were strengths and weaknesses in Zuma's leadership style.
"If you assess Zuma's leadership, you will see he moved from a centralist style to a more consulting leadership style, which meant he was not decisive in any action but rather waited for a collective decision. He simply does not take a strong position," Fikeni said.
"His articulation on policy implementation has not been his strongest point, and with international relations he has been giving mixed signals – and I am not sure if it's the weaknesses of the leader or that the global problems have become worse.
"In terms of some of the victories, Zuma has assisted in getting Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma appointed AU [African Union] chair, and he has managed to get the acceptance of South Africa into Brics ," he said.
"While some might say he is pro-poor, the building of his [R200-million] home in Nkandla is on a scale that is not presidential. It shows contradiction.
"But there are so many contradictions with many politicians. Look for instance at [Julius] Malema, Sexwale and Ramaphosa.
"They talk hard about fighting for the poor, but their lifestyles are full of contradictions," Fikeni said.