As the battle to succeed President Jacob Zuma as leader of South Africa’s ruling party grows increasingly bitter, party Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize is positioning himself as the one candidate who can stop the African National Congress from splitting apart.
“If I was to be elected there are specific things that I would contribute to the ANC that would take it forward — unity is the one main issue,” Mkhize said in an interview Tuesday at Bloomberg’s Johannesburg office. “I have got the advantage of being able to work with literally any leader in the organization.”
Mkhize has emerged in recent weeks as a potential successor to Zuma, who’s due to step down as ANC leader at its elective conference in December and as national president in 2019. He’s won support in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga — two eastern provinces with the biggest number of ANC members. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former chairwoman of the African Union Commission and the president’s ex-wife, were previously seen as the only two serious contenders for the top post.
The party’s elections come at a time when it’s riddled with divisions over Zuma’s leadership and his immersion in a succession of scandals. Disputes over who will get to vote have ended up in court in four of the nine provinces. Political uncertainty has also weighed on the economy, with the nation having fallen into a recession this year, business confidence at a three-decade low and the unemployment rate at a 14-year high. The rand has given up almost all the gains of as much as 10 percent this year to trade little changed against the dollar.
The ANC is working to resolve its internal differences to ensure the conference goes ahead as planned and avoid a repetition of previous splits that spawned three opposition parties — the United Democratic Movement, Congress of the People and Economic Freedom Fighters, according to Mkhize.
“We have seen…