The African National Congress (ANC), which is in power in South Africa, held a meeting on Sunday to elect a new party leader, pitting current president Cyril Ramaphosa against former health minister Zweli Mkhize. In the three decades after Nelson Mandela overthrew the country’s white minority rule, the victor, who will compete for president in elections in 2024 under the ANC flag, has been all but certain of winning.
But given the ANC’s declining popularity throughout that time and the potential that the party might lose its majority for the first time, this is no longer a given.
At the ANC’s five-day conference in Johannesburg, more than 4,400 delegates must choose which of the two contenders is best suited to turn around the organisation’s prospects.
As nominations were being finalised early on Sunday morning, their fans engaged in a sing-off. Supporters of Ramaphosa were singing and putting up two fingers to indicate a second term as leader.
The words “change” and “He (Ramaphosa) is not coming back” were shouted by Mkhize’s fans.
Prior to facing pressure to resign due to a controversy involving the discovery of a cash cache at his farm, Ramaphosa was the front-runner to win. Ramaphosa maintains his innocence while supporters of former president Jacob Zuma are attempting to remove Ramaphosa using the controversy.
Zuma is under investigation for a number of corruption charges, which he fiercely disputes.
Mkhize became the Zuma block’s most influential politician. Ramaphosa fired him amid allegations of fraud in the COVID-19 bids last year, which the former minister refutes.
(With inputs from agencies)