South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has gotten a major boost after the influential Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) resolved to support his bid for the African National Congress (ANC) presidency.
Mr Ramaphosa is in line to take over from President Jacob Zuma as the ruling party’s leader, but faces strong challenge from outgoing Africa Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
In ANC tradition, the deputy usually ascends to the top post, but some in the party think Mr Ramaphosa would take the party too far from its left-wing roots.
Cosatu Secretary-General Bheki Ntshalintshali confirmed the union’s decision at a press briefing following a three-day Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting.
"After intensive and robust debate, the CEC resolved to support and lobby for the Deputy President of the ANC Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa to take over the reigns as the next President of the ANC.
"We shall work to lobby and influence the ANC structures to support Comrade Ramaphosa,” Mr Ntshalintshali said.
The tripartite alliance member will now approach the party’s structures to support Mr Ramaphosa.
A few months ago, the ANC said it was too early to discuss succession issues with the elective conference set for December 2017.
Mr Ntshalintshali said the CEC had voiced its concerns over the state of affairs in the ANC, following the local government elections in August.
“We find it troubling that our movement continues to be preoccupied with its internal challenges and continues to be caught up in the relentless infighting and political gridlock,” Mr Ntshalintshali said.
He added that their hopes were that ANC’s next leader will have the interests of the working class at heart.
Mr Ramaphosa is a former trade unionist. In fact, he is a founding member of the National Union of Mines (NUM).
"he CEC reflected on the question of who should lead the ANC out of its current political gridlock and into the future.
"We engaged on this issue, driven by our devotion to the alliance and the desire to see the ANC united and ready to lead the second radical phase of our transition," he said.
NUM also resolved in September to support the candidacy of Mr Ramaphosa for president.
On Monday, President Zuma met 101 veterans of the African National Congress (ANC) who are pushing for his exit.
The meeting had initially been slated for Friday, but was pushed to Monday because President Zuma and other top six leaders were deployed across the country and unable to attend.
The veterans, who included Mr Ahmed Kathrada, Ms Cheryl Carolus, Mr Murphy Morobe, Mr Wally Serote and Mr Andrew Mlangeni, recently called for President Zuma to resign and the ANC to hold an early conference to elect new leadership.