Leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) in Gauteng and Mpumalanga have met in an attempt to find consensus on the leadership battle that appears to be tearing the party apart.
Both sides would work “tirelessly” to agree on policy and on who should replace President Jacob Zuma when his term ends in December.
They described a meeting they held on Monday as “historic and long-overdue”.
“The meeting agreed that the unity of the ANC remains sacrosanct and its pursuit must always put the interests of all South Africans first,” they said in a joint statement.
Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza had been making efforts to get provincial leaders to talk, ahead of the ANC’s hotly-contested December conference.
Mabuza was previously linked to the so-called premier league that includes KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Free State. In recent months he has played the role of unifier. He held talks with ANC leaders in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, in an attempt to get factions in the party to agree, to avoid the December conference becoming divisive.
The ANC’s chairpersons in KwaZulu-Natal, North West, and the Free State have expressed support for NEC member Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma taking over from Zuma. Mabuza, however, has yet to say who his province will back in December.
Insiders have said he sees himself as a serious power broker aiming to become ANC deputy president. He is said to have had behind-the-scenes meetings with both Dlamini-Zuma and her rival, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Dlamini-Zuma is yet to campaign in Mpumalanga. Ramaphosa was in the province in May during Cosatu’s Workers’ Day celebrations. Mabuza was not present.
Sources close to Mabuza say he is concerned about the ANC’s performance in the 2019 national elections and is trying to carve out a plan and find a leadership that unites the party.
He is said to be considering a third option for ANC president, a compromise candidate - current treasurer Zweli Mkhize.
Gauteng is yet to say who it will back. Expectations are it will be Ramaphosa.
“We don’t rely on slates. Slates are based on factionalism and will always fail,” Gauteng ANC spokesperson Nkenke Kekana told News 24.
Sources at the meeting said both sides condemned the use of memorial lectures by presidential candidates to campaign for the top post instead of honouring the past leaders. The presidential hopefuls, that include NEC members Lindiwe Sisulu, Jeff Radebe and Mathews Phosa, have featured in either annual Nelson Mandela or OR Tambo lectures in various provinces where they have accepted nominations.
“We have collectively agreed to take critical steps in the next four months to work very hard to foster unity and cohesion, not only within the ANC but within the broader society,” the Gauteng and Mpumalanga ANC said.