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EC ANC to back Lindiwe Sisulu for deputy after Mkhize withdrawal

Zweli Mkhize stunned delegates when he took to the podium and announced his withdrawal, which he said was for the sake of party unity.

Lindiwe Sisulu shares a laugh with Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the start of the ANC's 54th national conference on 16 December 2017. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Eastern Cape African National Congress (ANC) chairperson Oscar Mabuyane says that his province will back Lindiwe Sisulu for deputy president after their candidate, Zweli Mkhize, withdrew at the 11th hour on Sunday.

Mkhize stunned delegates when he took to the podium and announced his withdrawal, which he said was for the sake of party unity.

This means the contest for deputy president is now a two-horse race between Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza and Sisulu.

Delegates started voting for the party's new president and top officials on Sunday night and were expected to continue on Monday morning. It is expected that the results will be announced sometime today.

WATCH: Mkhize withdraws as Ramaphosa, Dlamini Zuma nominated for president

Mabuyane says that the Eastern Cape, where 193 branches picked outgoing ANC treasurer-general Mkhize for deputy president, will now throw its weight behind Sisulu.

“We’re not just numbers for Dr Zweli Mkhize because it was a provincial approach to nominate him and now, the entire province will be behind comrade Lindiwe Sisulu.”

Mabuyane says the former KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC’s campaign failed to gain traction and they spoke to him on Sunday morning.

“The issue that he has actually been saying on unity, he has demonstrated as well that it’s not about him, it’s about the ANC, if things are not going the way we would have wished.”

Sisulu is up against Mpumalanga Premier Mabuza, who on paper has much more support but with Mkhize out of the race and the backing of Ramaphosa’s supporters, the balance might tip in her favour.