South Africa’s ANC holds key meeting amid scandal

Delegates to the African National Congress cheer as they wait for the postponed ANC national meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Dec. 16.Jerome Delay/AP

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party is due to hold its key national conference amid scandals and bitter divisions.

The session, which opens in Johannesburg on Friday, will elect the party’s leadership and pass key statecraft policies. President Cyril Ramaphosa is seeking re-election as the party’s leader in the national conference, which is held every five years and is the ANC’s highest decision-making body.

The scandal surrounding Ramaphosa and factional fighting within the ANC are expected to dominate the meeting.

More than 4,000 delegates from across South Africa gathered in Johannesburg for the five-day conference.

The meeting comes at a time when South Africa is facing enormous challenges, including rolling blackouts lasting more than seven hours a day, 35% unemployment and slow economic growth.

While the focus will be on the election of the party leader and the ANC’s top five leadership positions, 80 members of the party’s national executive council will also be elected.

Delegates will debate key policy issues during committee meetings that are closed to the media. These are expected to focus on policies that promote social and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa’s most developed economies.

Policies adopted will be implemented by the country’s president, cabinet and legislature as the ANC controls all these branches of government.

However, the debate over these policies is expected to be overshadowed by bitter factional fighting within the ANC, with Ramaphosa challenged by his political opponents.

Ramaphosa has been facing calls for him to resign after a damning parliamentary report said he may have broken anti-corruption laws by hiding undeclared dollar cash on his Phala Phala farm. The report questioned the source of the funds and why it was not reported to the police.

Ramaphosa got a boost this week when parliament voted against launching impeachment proceedings against him over the Phala Phala scandal. However, some ANC lawmakers voted for his impeachment, emphasizing their opposition to Ramaphosa.

At the meeting, Ramaphosa is expected to be challenged for the leadership of the party by the country’s former health minister, Zweli Mkhiz, who was forced to resign from Rama over allegations of corruption related to COVID-19 procurement contracts. Maphosa’s cabinet resigns.

Other leaders may be nominated for the post at the conference, including Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who lost the leadership race to Ramaphosa at the last national conference in 2017.

Sharp divisions within the ANC were on display on the eve of the meeting, with former president Jacob Zuma announcing he would file a private prosecution against Ramaphosa for unspecified crimes. Ramaphosa responded quickly on Friday, saying he “rejects with the utmost contempt Mr Jacob Zuma’s abuse of legal process and perversion of the ‘nolle prosequi’ (private prosecution) clause.” A person cannot be prosecuted and a private prosecution can only be made after this has not happened.

Ramaphosa is expected to deliver an opening statement at the conference, which runs through next Tuesday.

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