THE ANC in the Eastern Cape is gearing up to broker deals with several provinces to avert an ugly showdown at its elective conference in Mangaung, and to ensure President Jacob Zuma holds on to his top job.
The party opened up its leadership nominations last week, ushering in months of wheeling and dealing by provincial bosses and branch members as they jostle to have their preferred leaders come out tops at the much-anticipated conference in December.
While provincial leaders are firmly behind Zuma, there is much debate at different branches in the province, with some members pushing for a change in leadership. Some regions, like Nelson Mandela Bay, are also divided on whom to support.
Bay leader Nceba Faku is backing Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe while the rest of his executive is advocating that Zuma get a second term.
Eastern Cape provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane said yesterday they were preparing for talks with Gauteng, which has punted Motlanthe for the top job.
"We are engaging. We have a pending meeting with Gauteng. We will be talking about policy issues, but leadership will be at the centre of our discussion.
"No one seems to disagree on policy and ideas, but it is on the leadership issue that we need to get everyone on the same page.
"This is an ANC exercise – to have everyone engage in a sober manner," Mabuyane said.
That meeting would follow talks between the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal leadership in Durban this week, where both provinces tried to hammer out a deal.
"It is important to listen to Gauteng and to understand why they want change. They must also listen to us to hear why we want continuity," Mabuyane said.
As the second-biggest ANC province, the Eastern Cape will take 676 delegates to Mangaung, trailing KwaZulu-Natal's 974 and more than Gauteng's 500.
"Our common interest is to see a strong organisation. The ANC is still grappling with [the fall-out of] Polokwane and the formation of COPE.
"We are seriously advocating to do away with slates. The problem with slates is that they sometimes stem from a lack of depth in political understanding of our situation. People develop slates without being properly informed.
"Some people also connect these slates to their material gain and that cannot be," Mabuyane said.
The Eastern Cape is also favouring Motlanthe to stay on for another term as deputy president.
Provincial party spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said: "But if he is standing as president, we are prepared to agree on the deputy president being one of the most known businesspeople – Cyril Ramaphosa."
Mabuyane said they also planned to lobby Limpopo, which is also heavily opposed to Zuma, as well as Mpumalanga and the Free State, which both support the president.
"We still have people who are locked in their own cocoons. We need to engage with those people and bring them on board."
He said if they failed to lobby support from the different provinces, they would have to go to Mangaung and "allow [the] branches to speak".
"Ultimately, it is the branches that will decide. We are only provincial leaders and we only form 10% of the vote.
"Branches hold 90% but we have influence on that majority because we are leading it.
"If people do not agree, then there is nothing wrong with [a] contest," Mabuyane said. – Additional reporting by Sapa