The African National Congress (ANC) will from 16 to 20 December hold its 54th national conference, where it will vote in a new president and a national executive committee (NEC). The ANC has been in power since the first democratic elections in 1994. As the ruling party which enjoys a substantial electoral majority over its political rivals, the partyâ€™s national conference determines not just the future of the ANC, but of the whole country.
The race for president has narrowed to two top candidates, former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. Bloomberg reported that Ramaphosa is in the lead, with a support level of 74% among conference delegates, who will choose the next leader.
According to the ANC constitution, the party president is the political head and â€œchief directing officerâ€ of the party, and the leader of the house at a national conference or national general council. They are mandated as well to make pronouncements for and on behalf of the NEC outlining and explaining the policy or attitude of the ANC on any question. The 52nd national conference resolved that â€œthe ANC president shall be the candidate of the movement for president of the Republic.â€
What is the national conference of the ANC?
The national conference is the highest decision-making body of the ANC, which determines the policy, programme and constitution of the party. This is done by discussing reports of the NEC which include the presidential address, and reports from the secretary-general and treasurer.
The conference then reviews, ratifies, alters or rescinds any decision taken by any of the constituent structures, committees or officials of the ANC if needed.
Conference delegates must also elect the president, the deputy president, national chairperson, the secretary-general, the deputy secretary-general, the treasurer general and the remaining 80 additional members of the NEC. They also elect or appoint any commission or committee and assign specific tasks and duties to such commission or committee.
Who are the delegates?
Voting delegates at the conference consist of 90% of branch members and the rest are from the NEC, members of the provincial executive committees, the ANC Veterans’ League, the ANC Youth League and the ANC Women’s League. The total number of voting delegates is 4776 and the winning candidate needs 2389 votes to win.
How does the nomination process work?
Each branch nominates candidates for the top six positions (president, deputy president, chairperson, secretary-general, deputy secretary-general and treasurer) and the rest of the NEC, and the branch members sent to conference as delegates will vote for these elected officials. On Sunday, the second day of the conference, they will vote in their new president.
Branch delegates are allowed to nominate anyone from the floor, however 25% of delegates must second the nomination. Their names will be added to a ballot and delegates will vote for the president of the ANC. The voting will be done by secret ballot and after the numbers are counted the new president will be announced.
ANC spokesperson Khusela Sangoni told the Mail & Guardian last month that after the president was voted in the conference would then allow delegates an opportunity for lobby groups to negotiate among themselves for the remaining positions. She said this was to discourage a winner-takes-all approach and to manage factions.
This is the first time the voting process will happen this way. At previous conferences delegates voted in all positions at the same time.
What are the powers of the national executive committee?
The NEC is currently made up of 107 members, according to the list on the party website. It issues directives, instructions to, and receive reports from the provinces. It supervises work of the ANC and all its organs, including national, provincial and local government caucuses. It also oversees the Veterans League, Womenâ€™s League and the Youth League.
It establishes departments and set up committees, manage assets of the ANC and issues documents and other policy directives as and when it deems fit.
The hiccups leading up to the conference
Mathews Phosa, a one-time presidential hopeful, alleged irregularitiesÂ in the nominations process and intimidation of members. He went to to court on Tuesday but withdrew the case.
The Grahamstown High Court has dismissed a bid to nullify the Eastern Cape provincial elective conference in September where violence had broken out. Members who took the matter to court wanted the conference to be delegitimised because 46% of the delegate walked out of the conference.
Around 32% of the Free Stateâ€™s branchesÂ are seeking to have their provincial congress nullified due to a failure to comply with a court ruling which stated that the provincial congress could not go ahead until it had rerun 29 branch general meetings.
In September, the high court in Pietermaritzburg nullified the 2015 KwaZulu Natal provincial conference, this disbanded the leadership in the province. The provincial leadership appealed the court order. Around 21% of party membership comes from the province, so it sends the most number of delegates to the conference.
The factional problems that manifested on a provincial level may be taken to the conference on Saturday, and could ultimately cause the conference to collapse.
President Zuma has backed Dlamini-Zuma since May this year. He is under a cloud of scandal, not just from the state capture allegations, but the corruption charges that have dogged him since before he became the leader of the country in 2009.
Wits professor and political analyst Susan Booysen said in August that Dlamini-Zumaâ€™s support in the current race is from Zumaâ€™s constituencies.
“I would love to see her become her own person … [but what I see is someone who wonâ€™t be her own leader if she is elected,” said Booysen.
In February, the Mail & Guardian reported that relations between Zuma and Ramaphosa had gotten so bad, the two were barely on speaking terms. By publicly criticising corruption and state capture, Ramaphosa has strongly signalled to Zuma and his cronies that should he win, they should not expect his backing.
Ramaphosa also enjoys the backing of prominent business interests, and seems to have been formally endorsed by The Economist.
Featured image via Twitter
For Zuma, who has been able to use his powers as the head of the executive to fend off his never-ending legal troubles, the outcomes of the 54th national conference is a matter of life and death. Should the â€˜wrongâ€™ candidate win, he can expect a final reckoning for corruption and state capture.
Editors note: this story has been updated to include the credentials report from the 54th ANC National Conference.