As 2016 winds down, South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), is reflecting on an eventful 2016, its worst year since it took power in 1994 after the end of apartheid.

The party has experienced a decline in electoral support, losing major metropolitan municipalities during the August local government elections. Tshwane, which encompasses the national administrative capital of Pretoria, the financial hub of Johannesburg, as well as Nelson Mandela Bay in Eastern Cape Province are all now run by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).

The ANC ends the year reeling from major crises, which have captured international headlines. Its worst performance in the elections led to calls by some within its ranks for the current leadership to step aside.

The party admits the losses came as a shock, and a wake up call to redeem itself. ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe says: We have been on on-going introspection, as you know that introspection is not an event, it’s a process.

“We have been doing it every NEC (National Executive Committee) since the elections in August, up to the last NEC; but coupled that with the programme that is going back to the people talking to the people, humbling ourselves.”

The dismal performance resulted in a wave of calls from senior party members for President Jacob Zuma to resign. And now the ugly succession debates, seem to be coming to the fore.

Mantashe agrees they rumblings are threatening to tear the party apart, ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in 2017.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to lock horns with outgoing African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in a bid to succeed President Zuma as party president.

This thing called succession can’t be a function of individual ambitions; it can’t be just a function of lobbying. It can’t be a function of friends and association who are promoted. It should be about what is the kind of leader we need in the current (situation). And we are determined that we must talk to the challenges facing the movement today and try to find a leader who can actually be reflective of the challenges facing the movement, says Mantashe.

Mantashe says if this is not handled well, it may lead to the worst outcome in the 2019 general elections but he is hopeful that the party will elect a credible leadership in 2017.

One, there should be leadership that leads the motive forces of change. Two, it should be leadership that understands the challenges of the day. And the leadership that is attached to the forces of change; then society is going to come back.

Corruption and factionalism are also some of the key challenges confronting the ANC. “One of the things that we have to act against strongly as the ANC is the importance of no longer talking about corruption as a perception,” says Mantashe.

“That we deal with corruption as a reality facing us and we must confront. Number 2 is the question of factionalism, that a divided movement can never be at its best. We must work for unity and cohesion of the movement.

The ruling party also met the veterans, who raised concerns about the loss of support for the ANC. After a public spat, the veterans and the ANC leadership have agreed to resolve their differences.