Johannesburg: More than 5,200 delegates will head to South Africa’s ruling African National Congress elective conference from December 16 to 20 to pick a new leader to replace President Jacob Zuma.
The gathering is the fruit of many months of planning for the complex process of selecting the storied party’s new president, who will likely go on to contest presidential elections in 2019.
The secrecy around the preparations and the numerous closed sessions have led some to raise fears that the outcome could be contested.
The electoral conference of the ANC is made up of 5,240 voting members of which 4,731 — roughly 90 per cent — are drawn from the party’s regional branches in the country’s nine provinces.
The other tenth of voting delegates is made up of members of the influential Women’s, Youth and Veterans’ leagues as well as the party’s nine provincial national executive committees.
Voting delegates are half male, half female — as specified by the party’s constitution.
How do the provinces vote?
Local branches select delegates to represent them at the national meeting and instruct them of their preferred slate of six candidates for the party’s top posts — president, vice president, chairperson, treasurer, secretary general and deputy secretary general.
They will also go to conference with a list of 80 names for the National Executive Committee which serves as the party’s internal legislature.
According to the official tally of pledges by the nine provinces, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa leads the field with more than 1,800 nominations while Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife, has more than 1,300 nods.
But the tally is merely a guide and could be radically different from the final vote at the conference as each delegate may alter their vote as they wish until it is officially cast.
How will the conference play out?
Leadership candidates will be officially nominated on Saturday when the gathering opens at the NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg.
Delegates then vote behind closed doors on the eligible candidates, with the contender who achieves a simple majority named leader.
The process is overseen by the party’s electoral commission which is made up of officials from the provinces and of former activists as well as an “independent” external organisation.
The new leader then brings the conference to a close. Their first major engagement is the January 8 celebration which marks the anniversary of the ANC’s formation. This year it will be held in East London in the country’s southeast on January 13.