Leadership disputes have ended up in court in three of the nine provinces — KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and North West — while the party’s national officials stepped in to avert a lawsuit challenging the outcome of its internal election in the Eastern Cape province.
Court challenges, allegations of vote rigging and outbreaks of violence — South Africa’s ruling party is in disarray less than three weeks before it’s scheduled to choose a new leader to replace President Jacob Zuma.
The struggle for power has spawned such disorder that some analysts question whether the African National Congress can hold a credible election at the Dec. 16-20 conference in Johannesburg in what’s shaping up to be the most hotly contested internal vote since Nelson Mandela led the party to power in 1994.
“If all these legal disputes are not sorted out by the time the conference takes place, they will be transferred to the conference itself,” said Mpumelelo Mkhabela, a political analyst at the University of Pretoria’s Center of Governance Innovation. “There is a risk that after the conference, some people challenge its legality and the decisions that have been taken.”
Seven candidates are vying to replace Zuma as ANC leader and become the party’s presidential candidate in 2019. Only Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former chairwoman of the African Union Commission and Zuma’s ex-wife, appear to have a realistic chance of winning.
Most party branches in the Northern Cape and Western Cape nominated Ramaphosa for the post, while Dlamini-Zuma received overwhelming backing in the Free State. The other six provinces will announce their preferences over the next few days.
On Wednesday, the high court in Bloemfontein in the Free State ordered that the province’s conference, which was due to take place this weekend, can’t be held until 29 branch meetings are rerun. The court said 29 of these meetings were irregular and unconstitutional.
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