National Assembly speaker and outgoing chairperson of the ruling party, Baleka Mbete has withdrawn her candidacy in the ANC presidential race.
Mbete announced her decision to back off in the hotly-sought race on Saturday while speaking at the ongoing conference. While her decision to withdraw might be linked to her not being nominated by any province, Mbete asserted that she would be supporting deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidential bid.
Endorsing Ramaphosa on the sidelines of the ANC’s 54th National Conference, she said: “We publicly endorse Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa.… We have been talking and we agree on how to approach the issues of maximising unity in the organisation.”
[Watch] Outgoing ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete has confirmed that she has endorsed Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for the position of party president. | Watch more: https://t.co/5tZHagavXl #ANC54 #CR17 pic.twitter.com/PlogmhHMY0
— SABC News Online (@SABCNewsOnline) December 17, 2017
Mbete’s withdrawal from the race shrunk the number of people contesting for the top post to six presidential hopefuls – Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Cyril Ramapahosa, Jeff Radebe, Lindiwe Sisulu, Zweli Mkhize, and Mathews Phosa.
And while it’s clear that the National Assembly speaker’s endorsement has boosted support for Ramaphosa, a CR17 lobbyist described her endorsement as an attempt to be considered as Ramaphosa’s deputy, which would be unlikely to happen because she “didn’t bring the numbers”.
“Her team sees our numbers because they have been trying to meet us. Her team met a couple of our guys to say, can she please be accommodated as deputy? But we had already firmed up Lindiwe Sisulu,” the lobbyist reportedly said.
Others alleged that her move could be a sign that there is no longer room for her on Zuma’s team. But whatever be the reason why she endorsement, the most important thing is that the CR17 team just got expanded.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Sisulu, has endorsed former AU chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as her preferred candidate. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, the minister said because her endorsement would ensure that there is gender parity in the top and bottom structures of the ANC.
Zulu, one of President Jacob Zuma’s fiercest defenders, added that it would a “historic moment” in the history of the party and the country if Dlamini-Zuma is elected ANC president.
Thousands of delegates from the ruling party are currently voting in Johannesburg for President Jacob Zuma’s successor and other national leadership officials. The vote began in the early hours of Monday and is still going on.
The eventual winner is expected to compete with opposition in the 2019 general elections.