Take me to your leader
THE Eastern Cape has again become a hotbed of political lobbying ahead of the ANC's Mangaung conference with different groupings campaigning for support in the influential province.
The campaigning is between a faction that supports President Jacob Zuma and the so-called "forces of change" - two groupings that share the view that Zuma should go but differ on who should take over.
The one faction under the "forces of change" banner is made up of the ANC Youth League, which wants deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and sports minister Fikile Mbalula to contest Zuma's and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe's positions, respectively. The other grouping is campaigning for human settlements minister Tokyo Sexwale.
While in 2007 Sexwale gave up his presidential ambition and threw his lot with the Zuma grouping, this time his lobbyists prefer aligning with the youth league.
"We have told the youth league they should not be hostile to our guy (Sexwale) because they are not even sure that Kgalema will stand. We can work together as we both want Zuma to go," said a Sexwale campaigner.
Zuma has the support of the ANC provincial leadership, with provincial secretary Lubabalo Mabuyane and Cooperative Governance MEC Mlibo Qhoboshiyane seen to be driving his campaign. But the Eastern Cape is still bleeding from the divisions that plagued the last provincial conference which elected a left-leaning faction - with SACP treasurer Phumulo Masualle as chairman.
In the Nelson Mandela region (Port Elizabeth) the contest is expected to be between three line-ups - one led by SACP provincial chairman Mzoleli Mrharha, the other by mayor Zanoxolo Wayile and the third by the incumbent Nceba Faku.
Mrharha is close to the Zuma grouping. A similar contest is expected in Amathole, where the left/Zuma grouping is fielding Young Communist League provincial chairman Sthembele Zuka against youth league member Thembalethu Ntuthu for the position of regional secretary.
But the biggest focus will be on the OR Tambo region, where divisions are more regional. While there is still a strong Zuma support, other regional leaders who are unhappy about the province's handling of the local government list process will contest the Zuma grouping for leadership.
The stakes are so high that all groupings are claiming the two recent regional conferences - in Alfred Nzo and Buffalo City - as their own victories.
The Eastern Cape is the ANC's biggest province after KwaZulu-Natal.
Provincial secretary Mabuyane admitted that the province was highly contested.
"There are those who want to keep the province divided perpetually ... but as the leadership we are pushing for unity.
"The divisions have contributed to the degeneration in the province's influence in national politics," he said.