On Tuesday night Jacob Zuma was elected the new president of the African National Congress. Of the 3843 votes cast by delegates at the ANC's 52nd national conference in Polokwane, Zuma received 2329 votes (60,6%) to President Thabo Mbeki's 1505 (39,2%). After the result was announced Mbeki walked onto the stage with Zuma and congratulated his successor. Afterwards he stepped down from the stage and returned to his seat where he was hugged by Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. He then shook hands with the outgoing Treasurer-General, Mendi Msimang.
The Zuma ticket won a clean sweep of the other top five positions in the ANC. Kgalema Motlanthe was elected Deputy President; Baleka Mbete, chairman; Gwede Mantashe, Secretary General; Thandi Modise, Deputy Secretary General; and, Mathews Phosa, Treasurer General. These results followed the same basic 60/40 split.
In the celebrations which followed the announcement of the results a Zuma supporter waved a hand written banner with the slogan "SORRY THABO MUGABE. SORRY. 6 - NIL."
ANC delegates began voting earlier in the day at 9am. As they left the voting area Mbeki loyalists - including Terror Lekota and Essop Pahad - were heckled by a small group of pro-Zuma supporters. Pahad smiled grimly as a heckler made the circular hand motion that South African soccer fans use when they want a player substituted.
A large group of delegates from the Eastern Cape and Limpopo arrived en masse waving the three-fingered salute that signifies support for a third term for Thabo Mbeki. However, the overwhelming feeling at the conference has been against Mbeki's continuation in office. During the nomination procedure for the top six positions on Monday night, it was again clear that those on the Zuma ticket were backed by a majority of the delegates. Once again, it was only a bloc of Eastern Cape delegates who sat unmoving while the rest cheered the nominees of the Zuma camp.
Outside the voting area Zuma supporters from Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Western Cape spoke of their desire for change, and said that they didn't want a "president for life" or a "Mugabe situation."
The Zuma victory had its origins less in disapproval of Mbeki's record, and more in a sense of unease at his ambitions to extend his term in office. Over the past few weeks it seems that attitudes against Mbeki, and his allies, have hardened within the ANC.
Their efforts to secure his hold on power did not go down well with the movement, after both the policy conference and nomination conferences had already made it clear their wish for him to step down. Those who were seen to have sided with Mbeki's efforts to remain in power were punished by delegates. They were booed and heckled in open session, and the Mbeki-ticket for the top six was comprehensively rejected, regardless of their individual merits.
A key question will be whether this anti-Mbeki sentiment will continue over to tomorrow, to the elections for the 80 members of the National Executive Committee.
|Table 1: Election results for the top six positions in the African National Congress December 18 2007
|Deputy Secretary General