52nd National Conference of the African National Congress
The 52nd National Conference of the African National Congress (ANC) was held in Polokwane, Limpopo from 16 December – 20 December 2007. It elected Jacob Zuma and supporters to the party's top leadership and National Executive Committee (NEC), representing a significant defeat for Thabo Mbeki, then the party's incumbent president and president of the country.
The conference was significant as a precursor to the general election of 2009, in which the newly elected leader of the ANC, the current majority party in the national parliament, is highly likely to become the next President of South Africa. (Thabo Mbeki resigned on 20 September 2008 and was replaced by Kgalema Motlanthe on 25 September 2008.) It was also the first leadership contest between two candidates at the national level since the 38th National Conference of the African National Congress in 1949, a watershed moment in the party's history when the moderate leadership was displaced by such figures as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu.
The buildup to the 52nd conference saw an unprecedented rivalry for the presidency of the ANC between Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. Mbeki, required by the country's constitution to relinquish the country's presidency at the end of his second term in 2009, nonetheless chose to stand for a third term as party president, as the ANC has no limit on the number of terms as party president. Zuma, the party's deputy president, had been deputy president of the country until his dismissal by Mbeki in June 2005 following allegations of corruption. Zuma campaigned against Mbeki for the party's presidency in the run-up to the 2007 conference. From that position he would be in a very strong position to become the country's next president in 2009.
Most ANC leaders initially claimed that no campaigns were underway for the party presidency, and that the party was united. By the start of the conference, however, it was clear that the party was deeply divided into Mbeki and Zuma camps. Media interest in the campaign was high, and given the controversies around Zuma, there was initially talk of "compromise candidates", with the names of Tokyo Sexwale and Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned, but ultimately none was forthcoming.
In June 2007, the ANC held its first National Policy Conference, a precursor meeting of various party officials and experts, to formulate future ANC policy.
New party leadership
The 52nd conference elected Jacob Zuma as the new president of the ANC. All of the top six NEC positions (President, Deputy President, Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-General, National Chairperson and Treasurer-General) went to Zuma supporters, representing a comprehensive defeat for Mbeki. A consistent 60%-40% margin in the votes for all these positions indicated that Zuma and Mbeki supporters had voted as a block on all the senior positions.
The newly elected National Executive Committee was also dominated by Zuma supporters. The conference also amended the ANC's constitution to increase the size of the NEC from 66 to 86, including the top six officials, and to enforce equal male and female representation in the NEC.
Jacob Zuma was elected president of the ANC.
Zuma, the incumbent deputy-president of the ANC and former deputy-president of South Africa, defeated Thabo Mbeki, incumbent president of the ANC and president of South Africa. Tokyo Sexwale, former premier of Gauteng was earlier seen as a presidential hopeful, however he threw his support behind Zuma. Cyril Ramaphosa, former Secretary-General of the ANC and trade union activist, Joel Netshitenzhe, head of the Government Communication and Information Systems, and Kgalema Motlanthe, incumbent Secretary-General of the ANC, were also mentioned as candidates, but did not stand.
Kgalema Motlanthe was elected deputy president of the ANC, defeating Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Kgalema Motlanthe was sworn in as South Africa's interim president on 25 September 2008 following the ANC's NEC decision on 20 September 2008 "recalling" Thabo Mbeki from the presidency.
Baleka Mbete was elected party Chairperson, defeating Joel Netshitenzhe. Tokyo Sexwale, previously a candidate, withdrew his candidacy and endorsed Mbete, who was speaker of the national parliament until she became deputy president of the country following Thabo Mbeki's resignation on 20 September 2008.
Enforcement of decorum rules
The beginning of the conference was filled with cheers and jeers for the rival candidates for the presidency.
Disqualification of delegates
On 18 December, the credentials committee announced that it had disqualified a number of delegates from some of the provincial party committees because the meetings in which the delegates which nominated were not part of the quorum.
As a result, Gauteng had its delegate allocation cut from 354 to 258 (plus 22 members of the provincial executive). Gauteng voted overwhelmingly in favour of Zuma at the nomination stage in November.
The Eastern Cape provincial party branch, a Mbeki stronghold, lost 29 delegates out of a massive 928, But Zuma's power base of KwaZulu-Natal lost only two delegates from its allocation. Its total came to 628.
As a result, the over-4,000 delegates who were to vote in a closed session for the six posts were reduced to over 3,900.
- Official website of the conference
- Information on the NEC nominations process
- MG.co.za portal for the conference