These are turbulent times for  South Africa’s governing ANC party.

It’s just ended a five-day mid-term review in Durban. Officially, the conference was meant to be looking at progress in implementing resolutions adopted at earlier meetings. In reality, the ANC is far from united, and policy differences are often a smokescreen as different factions jostle for power.

Many people in the ANC are unhappy with President Jacob Zuma they see his leadership as weak and indecisive, and they’re reluctant to give him a second-term in office. So this was an important occasion for him, a chance to reassert his leadership.

Initially, I felt he did well. I was in the hall when he gave his opening address. When Zuma said the jostling for succession must stop, most delegates applauded and cheered. He also criticised the ANC Youth League, and, by implication, its outspoken leader, Julius Malema, for a lack of discipline.

But behind the scenes, the Youth League fought back.  Take a look at this piece from the Mail and Guardian, which explains how the League pushed the issue of nationalisation of the mines in order to strengthen its position within the party: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-09-24-nationalisation-to-be-investigated-by-anc-leaders

This article from Reuters assesses who really won in Durban, and the implications for South Africa: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE68N18N20100924

So perhaps we’ll now see a truce in ANC in-fighting . But don’t bet on it. The economy is in recession, corruption appears to be increasing. There’s a restlessness in the ANC ranks, and fevered speculation about the long-term ambitions of heavyweights like Tokyo Sexwale and Kgalema Motlanthe. And Mr Malema is not a man to go quietly.

Meanwhile the Unions who helped Zuma rise to power, are also growing impatient, urging the ANC to shift its policies to the left. But for many, Zuma remains an enigma. It’s not clear what his convictions are, beyond, obviously,  a desire to be in power. That may not be enough in the long run.

For now, there is no alternative to the ANC. But South Africa needs an ANC  leader with vision, integrity and undisputed authority within the party, so that it can make faster progress in addressing its chronic social and economic problems.