The 54th National Conference of the African National Congress will be held this week from the 16th to the 20th to choose a successor to incumbent ANC President and President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma.
The conference is a precursor to the South African general election in 2019 which is considered to be one of the most important general elections in post-apartheid South Africa.
Of the seven hopefuls, the match for party leader is likely to be between Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a former labor leader turned tycoon, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former chair of the Africa Union, former Health Minister and ex-wife of President Zuma.
The two are running neck and neck.
Dlamini-Zuma was regarded as a capable technocrat during her time as South Africa’s minister of home affairs between 2009 and 2012 and has since gained international exposure during her time as the first female head of the AU.
Critics of Dlamini-Zuma, a medical doctor trained in South Africa and Britain, say she should have done more to intervene when former president Thabo Mbeki denied that HIV causes AIDs and imposed anti-scientific policies.
Her policy concerns include radical economic transformation, youth development, the oppression of women and a united ANC.
Ramaphosa, once seen as a successor to Nelson Mandela, would be the first choice for many investors because his background in commerce suggests he will support more pro-business policies than many in the traditionally left-wing ANC.
However, he will face criticism from opponents for his role at platinum producer Lonmin where he was a director and shareholder when violence led to police shooting dead 34 striking miners in 2012. An investigation has cleared him of wrongdoing.
Gender Based Violence has also become a hot button issue. A member of the Women’s League recently warned Mr. Ramaphosa: “If you want to speak out about violence against women and children, talk about yourself. You must open up because you say you know how difficult it is for a woman to take a stand.”
Ramaphosa has been linked to a string of affairs with younger women, which he denies. He admitted to one former affair.
Dlamini Zuma called for a peaceful conference with vibrant debate. “We won’t be rude and we don’t expect anyone to be rude. We must interact with respect,” she said. “It’s a democratic process, it’s not a fight against anybody.” w/pix of N. Dlamini-Zuma and C. Ramaphosa