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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

Close race for Eastern Cape ANC chair

The province’s regions are divided between the two leaders, with Masualle enjoying support in the urban metros while Mabuyane controls the rural regions.

The incumbent and Premier, Phumulo Masualle, and provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane are in a neck-and-neck race for the position of ANC provincial chairperson in the Eastern Cape, one of the vital provinces in the ANC succession debate.

For the first few years after the ANC was unbanned in 1990, the Eastern Cape had more ANC members than any other province.

The province dominated ANC elective conferences as the kingmaker and whoever it backed at national level was guaranteed to win the leadership of the party – until the ANC’s elective conference in 2007 in Polokwane.

Masualle, an SA Communist Party (SACP) stalwart and one of the longest-serving executives in the provincial government, is backed by supporters of President Jacob Zuma although he is not necessarily a Zuma follower himself.

Zuma is said to be impressed by Masualle’s humility despite the SACP being one of the parties leading the call for Zuma to step down. Zuma appointed him as premier, a move seen as a show of his confidence in the man.

The SACP has avoided naming a candidate to support at the upcoming ANC national elective conference in December.

But the party continues to call for Zuma’s head for his numerous leadership blunders. Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are the frontrunners in the race.

Mabuyane is a Ramaphosa strongman in the Eastern Cape. With his backing, Ramaphosa’s campaign has been making headway in the province.

At the weekend, Ramaphosa opened a section of Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in East London, an HIV/Aids Centre at Ndevana village near King William’s Town and addressed congregants during a church service.

The province’s regions and branches are divided between the two leaders with Masualle enjoying support in the main urban metros while Mabuyane controls the rural regions.

Anyone who is on the Dlamini-Zuma ticket has the guaranteed backing of the ANC Women’s League and the Youth League, but Masualle’s alignment with the Dlamini-Zuma camp has presented a conundrum for the SACP and Congress of SA Trade Union members.

Yesterday, Mabuyane said a special provincial executive committee (PEC) meeting on Monday agreed that a provincial conference would be held on September 28 to October 1.

The special PEC received an audit report from the ANC national audit team indicating the province was ready to hold its provincial conference as it has surpassed the 70% threshold for branches that have held their branch general meetings. – ericn@citizen.co.za

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