South Africa’s leading Sunday paper is reporting that businessman Tokyo Sexwale is campaigning for the leadership of the governing ANC party. Â The ANC is expected to choose a new leader at the end of this year.
Until now, the only visible contender has been the party’s deputy president, Jacob Zuma.
The succession is important because whoever takes over will be a front-runner to succeed Thabo Mbeki as president in two years’ time.
According to South Africa’s Sunday Times, Tokyo Sexwale is projecting himself as a compromise candidate in what could be a messy succession battle within the African National Congress.
The party has been split between those backing President Mbeki and supporters of Mr Zuma – who was acquitted after a trial for rape last year, and then had a corruption case against him thrown out of court.
Mr Zuma has always maintained the court cases were politically motivated.
‘Close to Mandela’
The Sunday Times says that Mr Sexwale – who has not been active in politics for nearly 10 years – is actively campaigning for the ANC presidency, and has had high-level discussions with supporters of both Mr Mbeki and Mr Zuma.
Mr Sexwale is believed to be close to former President Nelson Mandela.
They were imprisoned together on Robben Island, until their release in 1990.
Tokyo Sexwale became the Premier of Gauteng Province in 1994, but went into business four years later, following differences with Mr Mbeki, who was then ANC deputy leader.
He was later accused, with other senior ANC officials, of plotting to topple Mr Mbeki.
The BBC’s Mohammed Allie in Cape Town, says that Mr Sexwale has now healed his rift with Mr Mbeki.
Mr Sexwale has never ruled out a return to politics, and if the latest press reports are accurate, this marks a major development in the forthcoming ANC leadership contest.
In the past month, another weekend newspaper has claimed that Mr Sexwale has been cutting back his business commitments, with a view to mounting a presidential challenge.