Winds of change buffeted KNZ’s political landscape

2013-12-27 00:00

AS the year 2013 draws to a close, it is worth taking stock of some of the events that characterised the politics of KwaZulu-Natal, MAYIBONGE MAQHINA writes.

The events that unfolded nationwide have not left the province unscathed, with parties struggling to trim their sails to the guts that blew the political waves in different directions.

Amid a lot of national turmoil, KZN had its own share of highs and lows, where local politics were characterised by musical chairs in positions of power in government and unions, swopping of affiliations and lacklustre performances by some parties.

The province started the year with aspiring premiers quietly jostling for power to replace ANC chairman and Zweli Mkhize, who was elected as the ruling party’s national treasurer at Mangaung a year ago.

The ANC initially downplayed Mkhize’s election as something that would not pose a threat to unity within the provincial branch. But when it became clear that there would be no automatic elevation of deputy chairman Willies Mchunu to be the provincial boss, behind the scenes camps positioned their candidates to take over the chairmanship.

When the Provincial General Council was held, a fierce contest ensued between Transport MEC Willies Mchunu and then Education MEC Senzo Mchunu. Senzo Mchunu elbowed out his one-time mentor by 12 votes, winning by 385 votes to 373 votes for Willies Mchunu, who remains deputy chairperson.

When he became premier months later, Senzo chose not to tamper with political stability and made no wholesale changes to the cabinet he inherited from Mkhize.

Instead he co-opted KZN Legislature’s Peggy Nkonyeni — who also hails from the SACP just like Willies — to his former position as Education MEC by way of appeasing the losing camp that backed his contender.

The ANC’s Provincial General Council resolved to consolidate the ANC support in the province to help the party obtain 70% of votes in next year’s national elections.

To this end the party had identified Zululand District, the erstwhile stronghold of the IFP, as a focus area to sign up new members from the ranks of the official opposition and minority parties.

The party recently engineered the resignation of IFP councillors in Nongoma and when it did not win outright other wards against the NFP, ANC members cried foul and called for a recount of votes. Ironically, the call was backed by the IFP, suddenly in the shadow of the NFP, which has set its eyes firmly in replacing the IFP as KZN’s official opposition next year.

Looking back on 2013 the IFP will have to admit to have been found wanting as the official opposition, especially in failing to take advantage where the ruling party had blundered.

The NFP meanwhile has had its own problems, with its members still siding — and voting — with the IFP despite their party being in agreement with ANC in 19 hung municipalities.

The NFP’s attempt to discipline and compel its councillors to toe the line has been met with court action by its members.

To ensure that none of their councillors would support IFP, the NFP had to convene a caucus of both ANC and NFP councillors when the IFP tabled a motion of no confidence against its party leader and Zululand mayor Zanele Magwaza-Msibi.

This was one of the instances where the parties had worked together to ensure their marriage was not jeopardised as it was the case in other hung municipalities.

Unlike the IFP, the DA was quick off the mark to leverage every opportunity to expose any ANC-led government blunders.

Visits by DA leader Helen Zille to KZN also proved an irritation to the new premier Senzo Mchunu, who on numerous occasions complained about the blue brigade campaigning in erstwhile no-go areas that the ANC had started in rural areas and townships.

It was no wonder then that the ANC accused the DA of being behind the controversial T-shirts poking fun at ruling party leaders.

This year also saw the Minority Front embroiled in leadership squabbles over the control of the party between Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi and members of the party.

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