South Africa’s ANC party opens key conference amid scandal


JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party begins its crucial national conference amid scandals and sharp divisions.

The conference, which will be inaugurated in Johannesburg on Friday, will elect the party’s leadership and set key policies for running the country. President Cyril Ramaphosa seeks re-election as the party’s leader at the national conference, the ANC’s highest decision-making body, held every five years.

The scandal surrounding Ramaphosa and factional rivalry within the ANC are expected to dominate the conference.

More than 4,000 delegates from all over South Africa gathered in Johannesburg for the five-day conference.

The conference comes at a time when South Africa is facing enormous challenges such as continuous power cuts lasting more than 7 hours a day, unemployment at 35% and slow economic growth.

All 80 members of the party’s National Executive Committee will be elected, although more focus will be placed on the selection of the party leader and the ANC’s top five leadership positions.

Key policy issues will be discussed by delegates at commission sessions, which will be closed to the media. These are expected to focus on policies that will foster the social and economic development of sub-Saharan Africa’s most advanced economy.

Since the ANC controls all these wings of the government, the policies adopted will be implemented by the country’s president, Cabinet and legislature.

However, the debate over these policies is expected to be overshadowed by raging factional wars within the ANC that will see Ramaphosa be challenged by his political rivals.

Ramaphosa is facing calls to step down from his post after a cursing parliamentary report says he may have broken anti-corruption laws by hiding undeclared cash dollars at the Phala Phala farm. The report questioned the source of the funds and why it did not report it to the police.

This week, Ramaphosa gained support after parliament voted against moves to initiate impeachment proceedings against him over the Phala Phala scandal. However, some MPs from the ANC voted in favor of his dismissal, highlighting their opposition to Ramaphosa.

The conference is expected to challenge Ramaphosa for the party leadership by the country’s former health minister, Zweli Mkhize, who was forced to resign from Ramaphosa’s Cabinet amid allegations of corruption related to COVID-19 supply contracts.

Other leaders can be nominated for the conference position, including Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who lost to Ramaphosa in the leadership race at the previous national conference in 2017.

Sharp divisions within the ANC were demonstrated on the eve of the conference when former President Jacob Zuma announced that he would launch a special prosecution of Ramaphosa for unspecified crimes. Ramaphosa swiftly responded on Friday, saying he “rejected with the utmost contempt of Mr. Ramaphosa said in a statement that a private prosecution could only take place after the National Prosecutor’s Office stated that it would not prosecute a person, and that did not happen.

Ramaphosa is expected to deliver the keynote address at the conference, which will run until next Tuesday.

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