KZN will be the chief lobbyist for Zuma

2012-03-03 13:13

By this time five years ago, in the final steps to its national elective conference in Polokwane, Limpopo, the ANC structures in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) had already taken on a role far more significant than that of just another province.

Its delegates to the governing party’s national general council meeting in Tshwane two years earlier had, after all, started the revolution that scuppered the bid to force Jacob Zuma, then party deputy president, to stand down.

Refusing to read from the script written by then president Thabo Mbeki when he fired Zuma as his deputy in 2005, they were at the centre of the campaign to keep him out of jail and install him in Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria.

The province took on the role of chief lobbyist for the Zuma campaign, although its then chairperson, S’bu Ndebele, was viewed as an Mbeki man and a less than enthusiastic follower of the man from Nxamalala.

Ndebele was replaced by current chairperson and premier Dr Zweli Mkhize – then perhaps Zuma’s closest lieutenant – in June 2008 when his term expired.

Fast-forward five years and the province has again emerged as a kingmaker as Zuma clears the decks for his run for a second term at the nation’s helm.

The province’s muscle has grown significantly through a massive membership increase sparked by Zuma’s ascendancy and it now goes into Mangaung in Free State as the largest ANC province.

On paper, Mkhize should go into the elective conference – and the provincial conference in May – as Zuma’s chief backer and the province as a monolith backing him for a second term.

The behind-the-scenes hustling in the succession battle and the whispering campaigns run by the rival camps mean that Mkhize may still face a direct challenge to his chairpersonship.

The leaked 2010 report into the alleged conspiracy to oust Zuma by a group of ANC leaders working with billionaire national executive committee member Tokyo Sexwale placed Mkhize in this camp, a slur he has struggled to overcome in his home province.

While back-room operators from the presidency and Mkhize’s provincial machine offer off-the-record assurances that all is well between Zuma and Mkhize, the rumblings of a fallout are still there.

Thus far, eight of the 11 ANC regions in KZN have held their conferences, with the bulk of the chairpersons coming in being located within the Zuma camp. The last three – eThekwini, Moses Mabhida and UKhahlamba – are likely to provide similar outcomes.

There are slates emerging in the province punting former provincial secretary Senzo Mchunu to stand against Mkhize as chairperson, but all indications are that he may stand unopposed, preventing any further infighting and weakening of the province.

There are also whispers he should be deployed nationally after the 2014 general elections rather than going for a second term as premier.

Mkhize and provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala have both made it clear that they and the province back Zuma.

The last provincial general council expressed its “confidence” in Zuma and his leadership.

While Zikalala says the provincial leadership will only be discussed after the national leadership gives the go-ahead, the eight regions have already backed Zuma for a second term.

The remaining three will do the same.

The provincial ANC Youth League has refused to throw itself behind the anti-Zuma campaign, with its executive committee being fired by its national leaders over this stance.

The provincial conference will endorse Zuma for a second term for party president, although there will be serious hustling around the composition of the rest of the top five.

Once the green light comes from above for the lobbying to begin, the province will again go into pre-Polokwane kingmaker mode on behalf of Zuma, who at 10 months before Mangaung already has it sewn up.

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