JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party kicks off its crucial national conference amid a scandal and bitter divisions.
The conference opening in Johannesburg on Friday will elect the party leadership and adopt key policies to govern the country. President Cyril Ramaphosa seeks re-election as party leader at the national conference, which is held every five years and is the ANC’s highest decision-making body.
The scandal around Ramaphosa and factional rivalries within the ANC are expected to dominate the conference.
More than 4,000 delegates from across South Africa gathered in Johannesburg for the five-day conference.
The conference comes as South Africa faces enormous challenges including power cuts of more than 7 hours a day, 35% unemployment and slow economic growth.
While the focus will be on electing the leader of the party and the five leadership positions of the ANC, 80 members of the party’s National Executive Committee will also be elected.
Key political issues will be debated by delegates in committee sessions that will be closed to the media. These should focus on policies to promote the social and economic development of the most developed economy in sub-Saharan Africa.
The policies adopted must be implemented by the President, Cabinet and Legislature of the country, as the ANC controls all these branches of government.
However, debates over these policies are set to be overshadowed by angry factional battles within the ANC that will see Ramaphosa challenged by his political rivals.
Ramaphosa has been called to resign from his post following a damning parliamentary report that he may have broken anti-corruption laws by hiding undeclared dollars in cash at his Phala Phala farm. The report questioned the source of the funds and why did not report it to the police.
This week Ramaphosa received a boost when parliament voted against the measures to initiate impeachment proceedings against him for the Phala Phala scandal. However, some ANC lawmakers voted to remove him, underlining their opposition to Ramaphosa.
At the conference, Ramaphosa is expected to be challenged for party leadership by Zweli Mkhize, the country’s former health minister who was forced to resign from Ramaphosa’s cabinet over allegations of corruption related to supply contracts. related to COVID-19.
Other leaders could be nominated for the post at the conference, including Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who lost to Ramaphosa in the leadership race at the previous national conference in 2017.
The strong divisions within the ANC were shown on the eve of the conference by former President Jacob Zuma’s announcement that he would launch a private prosecution against Ramaphosa for unspecified crimes. Ramaphosa quickly responded on Friday saying he “rejects with the utmost contempt Mr. Jacob Zuma’s abuse of judicial process and perversion of the ‘nolle prosequi’ (private prosecution) provision.” Ramaphosa’s statement said a private prosecution can only take place after the National Prosecuting Authority has said it will not prosecute a person and that has not happened.
Ramaphosa is expected to deliver the keynote address for the conference, which will continue until next Tuesday.