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ANC presidential race: Cracks showing within Mkhize ranks amid talk of disqualification


ANC presidential race: Cracks showing within Mkhize ranks amid talk of disqualification
Former health minister Zweli Mkhize is contesting for the ANC's top spot.

Former health minister Zweli Mkhize is contesting for the ANC’s top spot.

PHOTO: Leon Sadiki/City Press

  • Delegates at the ANC’s NEC meeting are expected to hear a push to disqualify former health minister Zweli Mkhize from the ANC presidency contest.
  • If the ANC’s electoral rules are implemented, it may scupper Mkhize’s chances and bolster a last-minute bid by Paul Mashatile to contest the ANC presidency.
  • Mkhize’s chief lobbyist, Simphiwe Blose, says they are aware of efforts by party leaders to use the ANC electoral rules to eliminate contestants.

An effort to use an ANC integrity commission report, which recommended the suspension of former health minister Zweli Mkhize, to disqualify him from the leadership race, has caused cracks within his ranks.

News24 understands that a group within Mkhize’s broader supporters anticipate Mkhize’s possible disqualification from the race for the ANC presidency.

On Friday, the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) is expected to receive a report from the electoral committee, led by former president Kgalema Motlanthe, after nominations for leadership positions were closed this week.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and the ANC Youth League nominated Mkhize to take on President Cyril Ramaphosa for the ANC presidency at the party’s elective conference in December.

READ | Zweli Mkhize not ‘just a leader from KZN’, but has national support – ANC provincial secretary

A party insider, known to be part of Mkhize’s core supporters, said the resuscitation of the integrity commission report at the NEC meeting, which starts on Friday, could dash Mkhize’s presidential ambitions.

The report by the ANC’s integrity commission last year found that Mkhize brought the party into disrepute and recommended that he be suspended due to his association with Digital Vibes. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) earlier found that Digital Vibes had improperly received a tender from the health department when Mkhize was health minister.

The source said that both Ramaphosa and Mkhize might be affected by the ANC’s electoral rules that disqualified party leaders who were the subject of adverse integrity commission reports.

Ramaphosa has been subject to an integrity commission probe linked to his role in alleged unscrupulous dealings related to the theft of money at his Phala Phala farm. A report by an independent panel set up by Parliament on whether Ramaphosa has an impeachable case to answer about Phala Phala is expected next week.

The insider said the integrity commission reports might pave the way for ANC treasurer-general and acting secretary-general Paul Mashatile to make a play for the ANC presidency.

Mashatile has been nominated for the ANC deputy presidency, but his allies have not ruled out a play for the number one job.

“There may be an issue with both candidates (in terms of the Motlanthe rules). It could mean there may be another candidate (Mashatile) emerging from the floor of the conference,” the insider said.

An ANC NEC member said they expected the three-day NEC meeting to be “tense and tough”.

“There’s going to be a push to have the president step aside, and there’s also going to be a fight to deal with the integrity commission reports against Mkhize. It is going to be a mess,” the NEC member said.

Mkhize’s chief lobbyist, Simphiwe Blose, said they were aware that party leaders wanted to “use the power of the positions they occupy to eliminate contestants ahead of the conference”.

He said:

At this stage, branches have sat, nominations are closed, and everyone is nominated to the position where he avails himself or herself for. If CR (Ramaphosa) is nominated for the position of president, it will go according to that because that nomination is properly engaged at the level of branches with delegates. If Dr Zweli Mkhize is nominated for the same position, he will contest for that position.

“There is no one who can just change their mind and say, ‘I don’t want to contest the position of deputy president. I want to contest the position of president’. It won’t happen.”

Blose said delegates at the conference still needed to adopt the electoral commission rules, and it could not be used by party leaders to eliminate contestants.

According to the electoral commission’s rules, no one may contest ANC elections for leadership if they have been found guilty of or charged with a crime.

Those who have been found guilty by the party’s disciplinary committee and whose membership has been suspended in the last 10 years would also be disqualified.

READ MORE | Phala Phala: Mashatile warns about step-aside rule as ANC receives panel report

“The rules above apply to all members who are temporality suspended, pending the outcome of a court case or disciplinary hearing, and to members on whose cases the IC have completed and submitted a report and recommendation of suspension of membership, or stepping aside from leadership or public office (sic),” the rules read.

The electoral committee, led by Motlanthe, is expected to use the rules to “vet all nominees that make it onto the list of those who may appear on a ballot paper and exclude those affected by any part of rules”.

Blose said the rules were expected to be challenged by conference delegates before voting took place.

“We are relying on the fact that even those guidelines, even if they are done by Motlanthe, presented to the NEC, but those are the conference guidelines of the delegates (sic). So, even if you can have your agenda around that, it will need to be tested at the conference,” he said.

The NEC meeting this weekend is expected to receive a report from the electoral committee, as well as the integrity commission.

Blose said Mkhize’s appeal of the integrity commission report against him last December was never dealt with. 

“If the integrity commission can be taken seriously, there will be no one in the top six,” he said.

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