Infighting could dilute eThekwini ANC’s influence

2015-03-15 15:00

The complicated battle for control of the ANC’s largest and most powerful region, eThekwini, may see its kingmaker influence diluted ahead of the party’s milestone National General Council meeting in June.

According to internal ANC reports, the region’s membership plummeted by more than 10?000 between March 2012 – when it stood at 58?835 – and July 2014, when it reached its lowest level since 2005, at 48?795.

The region’s elective conference has been canned and a rerun ordered by Luthuli House after three postponements and a flawed sitting last month.

ANC insiders say the fight for control of eThekwini is not just about the political power that comes with the control of the municipality’s resources.

They say it also relates to the influence the region commands in both provincial and national ANC politics.

“You have to understand the power that eThekwini has exercised,” said one ANC MPL who asked not to be named.

“This is the region that carried [President Jacob] Zuma at Polokwane and Mangaung. It was eThekwini that started things in both campaigns and that had the numbers when voting came in both conferences,” the MPL said.

“eThekwini started the fight for Jacob Zuma in 2005 and took it into the Polokwane conference.

“It was John Mchunu [the then eThekwini chairperson] who did the hard work with his men lobbying across provincial lines on the Zuma ticket at Polokwane.”

The contested eThekwini conference, held on Valentine’s Day, saw sitting Durban mayor James Nxumalo being elected chairperson by a 253 to 212 margin over treasurer Zandile Gumede.

ANC insiders told City Press that Nxumalo’s bid for the chair is seen to be linked to a bid for a second term by provincial chair Senzo Mchunu and Gumede’s to a potential run at the chair by current secretary Sihle Zikalala.

Zikalala, the sources said, was seen as a better choice as chair to prepare for a potential 2017 national leadership bid by treasurer general and former KZN premier Zweli Mkhize.

“Things are constantly changing and people are making all kind of alliances to set themselves up for after the old man [Zuma] goes,” said the MPL. “It’s very early and people are in alliances now that are going to change before [the June] conference. You also have business people bring pressure and trying to influence things.”

All indications are that the rerun will be hard fought.

Nxumalo this week publicly accused Gumede of “buying” female delegates’ votes with gift packages at the Valentine’s Day conference.

Nxumalo’s salvo came in response to allegations that delegates from several branches were paid to vote for him.

This week the provincial SA Communist Party, which backs Nxumalo, also entered the fray.

SACP provincial secretary Themba Mthembu told a media briefing in Durban that the province should have defied Luthuli House and allowed the eThekwini regional conference outcome to stand.

Mthembu said Luthuli House’s decision to rerun the conference was “strange”.

In a thinly veiled swipe at ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, Mthembu said the SACP would not have allowed its secretary-general, Blade Nzimande, to interfere in the decisions of a provincial conference.

One regional leader said the infighting would weaken eThekwini’s influence at the June conference if it was not contained.

“If this isn’t dealt with now, eThekwini will be split for good. The numbers are not going to be there if this continues for much longer,” said another.

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