SOWETO, South Africa—In his final speech as leader of the African National Congress, a defiant President
attacked the media and his opponents within and outside the party, which has been roiled by allegations of corruption and falling poll numbers.
Heading into the ANC’s national conference, which started Saturday, Mr. Zuma’s preferred successor, his ex-wife and former chairperson of the African Union
has been trailing her rival, Deputy President
in endorsements from local party branches. On Friday, the president and his ex-wife suffered further setbacks, when three separate courts disqualified dozens of their supporters from casting votes for a new party leader, saying their selection as conference delegates had been flawed.
Mr. Zuma has much riding on who will take the helm of the party of
He is still battling the reinstatement of corruption charges linked to a 1999 arms deal, which were dropped before he was elected president in 2009. He is also under pressure over allegations that he allowed the controversial Gupta family yield undue influence over his government and state companies.
Mr. Zuma and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing.
Analysts have said that a win for Mr. Ramaphosa, who has called for a commission of inquiry into the “capture” of the South African state under Mr. Zuma, could see the president being forced out of office before his term ends in 2019. It will also make it harder for him and his supporters to deflect criminal charges and possible jail time.
In his two-hour speech, Mr. Zuma glossed over the allegations of corruption that have hobbled his government. Instead, he attacked corporations, which he said were colluding against poor South Africans, ANC members that had gone to court to resolve party disputes and local and foreign media, which he accused of holding “vested interests.”
“The mobilization of the media against the country and the ANC from Johannesburg to London, New York and Washington DC has gained momentum in recent months,” Mr. Zuma told a conference hall packed with ANC cadres dressed in the party colors of black, green and yellow.
Despite his lead in endorsements, experts and officials say a victory for Mr. Ramaphosa, a firebrand-union-leader-turned-multimillionaire, is far from assured. Ms. Dlamini-Zuma’s supporters insist that she has been endorsed by bigger branches, which are allowed to send more delegates to the conference. There have also been widespread allegations of vote buying, including from Police Minister
and disputes could arise over checking the credentials of voting delegates, which was already the conference program on Saturday.
“Often conferences collapse if there are the wrong people at the conference,” said
the ANC chairman for Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria and which has endorsed Mr. Ramaphosa for party leader.
Mr. Mashatile said the party should make sure to elect members of both the Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma factions into its new leadership to avoid a potential split. “The ANC can collapse unless we pull it together,” he said. “But there is a lot of determination from all the leaders that we will cross this bridge.”
Write to Gabriele Steinhauser at [email protected]
Source : WSJ