As the race to succeed President Jacob Zuma as president of the ANC speeds up, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is expected to be the next contender to throw her hat into the ring.
Officially, the ANC does not allow open campaigning for the position but Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former AU commission chair, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, are believed to be the front-runners.
The Sowetan reported that an ANC branch in the Eastern Cape has invited Sisulu to address the official renaming of the branch on Saturday, and will "engage" her on the succession battle.
The paper reported that branded merchandise with Sisulu's face and the word "Sisulu17" have been circulated.
ANC ward 11 branch chairperson in the Amathole region, Siphiwo Venkile, told the Sowetan: "She [Sisulu] is an experienced leader who led several government departments and went into exile and became an MK [Umkhonto weSizwe, the ANC's liberation army] operative.
"This is the launch of our branch but we cannot leave out the December succession discussions."
Spokesperson for Sisulu, Vusi Tshose, told the newspaper: "It's the official renaming of the branch. She was invited to do the official renaming as a member of the NEC [National Executive Committee]. That's the brief. She does not have any other information except that of the official opening of the branch."
Unofficially, Dlamini-Zuma's campaign launched early in February, at a religious event where she called for more women leaders. She has attended several other campaign events since. She is seen as President Jacob Zuma's preferred candidate for the presidency.
In February, the Mail & Guardian reported that Sisulu's supporters are painting her as a viable alternative to the other two candidates, because of her clean record. They reportedly said that Dlamini-Zuma was too tainted because of her proximity to Zuma as his ex-wife, while Ramaphosa was tainted by the Marikana massacre.
"To win the elections in 2019, the ANC needs someone like Sisulu, who doesn't have any scandal to her name and does not belong to any faction in the ANC. In 2019, South Africans will not vote for Marikana, they will not vote for the Guptas. They want a credible leader," a lobbyist told the Mail & Guardian.Suggest a correction