Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a front-runner for the leadership of South Africa’s ruling ANC party, called during a campaign speech in Durban Saturday for a peaceful contest instead of a “fight amongst enemies”.
Dlamini-Zuma made the call in what was likely to be her final major appearance ahead of the African National Congress’ elective conference to select President Jacob Zuma’s successor as party leader in Johannesburg between December 16 and 20.
Zuma’s ex-wife and former African Union Commission chair has been locked in an increasingly bitter fight with fellow frontrunner Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa — but called for party unity and a peaceful conference.
“This is a democratic process — it is not a fight amongst enemies… it’s a festival of ideas, so you must be prepared to argue your case,” she said, adding that the eventual winner would need to go on to unite the party and the country ahead of general elections due in 2019.
Dlamini-Zuma, 68, who spoke largely in Zulu, wore her trademark green head-wrap and shawl and was buffeted by high winds as she addressed the large, enthusiastic crowd at the Sugar Ray Xulu stadium.
She will go into the conference trailing Ramaphosa, 65, who has a lead among regional party delegates whose votes make up 90 percent of the final ballot for the new leader.
He currently has 1,859 pledges to her 1,330 according to a provisional toll of regional ANC party branch members published on Tuesday.
Other leadership hopefuls include parliament speaker Baleka Mbete and presidency minister Jeff Radebe — although they are seen as outsiders.
‘Emancipation of women’
There are 4,731 branch delegates in all who will make up roughly 90 percent of the votes that will be cast at the elective conference to pick a new leader.
Branch delegates can change their votes up until the conference.
The remaining votes are reserved for delegates from the ANC’s Women’s, Youth and Veteran’s branches as well as provincial executive committee members.
The women’s and youth leagues are seen as fierce Dlamini-Zuma supporters and she praised them enthusiastically during her speech.
She also called for a radical reshaping of the country’s ailing economy.
“The financial sector must be transformed… Industrialisation is the key — along with manufacturing,” she said, calling for major investment in infrastructure, including spending on high speed rail.
Dlamini-Zuma also pledged action on unemployment which has remained stubbornly high — more than 26 percent.
She also complained that the majority of the country’s economy remains in the hands of “the minority” — a reference to the country’s white population who make up nine percent of South Africans — 23 years after the end of white-minority rule.
In her most enthusiastically received comments, Dlamini-Zuma appealed to female members of the ANC to back her run for the party’s presidency.
“National democratic transformation cannot triumph without the emancipation of women,” she told the crowds in a speech that was more lively and confident than some of her recent campaign appearances.
“We won’t be ruled and we don’t expect anyone to be ruled.”