Durban - The struggle for power within the uppermost echelon of the African National Congress in KwaZulu-Natal could plunge the party into a "civil war", an analyst said on Thursday.
"The province is volatile and politically fragile. The province has the potential to have an internal ANC civil war," political analyst Professor Susan Booysen said.
This followed a Pietermaritzburg High Court application by five ANC members, filed on July 22, seeking to have the party's 8th provincial elective conference which took place in Pietermaritzburg in 2015, declared invalid.
If successful, the move could see the entire provincial leadership ousted.
The five applicants - Lawrence Dube, Sibahle Zikalala, Martin Mzangwa, Mzweni Ngcobo and Lindiwe Buthelezi - asked the court to nullify the outcomes of the conference.
They have also requested the court to rule that the decisions, resolutions and elections be declared unlawful and invalid and be set aside, and that any recognition of the conference by the ANC also be declared invalid.
History of members taking party to court
The 39 respondents include provincial ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala, his deputy Willies Mchunu, other top party figures, the ANC itself, and the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa.
The applicants also asked that the costs of the application be paid by the ANC and gave the respondents until mid-September to oppose the motion.
The elective conference in question saw Zikalala beat former Premier Senzo Mchunu to become the provincial chairperson. Zikalala won the position with 780 votes, while Mchunu received 675 votes in a process where 1 459 delegates voted.
Booysen, a professor at the Wits University Graduate School of Public and Development Management, said it all depended on whether the court decided to take up the matter or have it struck from the roll.
"Look at the Marius Fransman issue in Western Cape and the Mangaung incident where the Free State rebels took the party to court. There has been a history of ANC members and leaders taking the party to court because they wanted the court to resolve internal party matters."
She said if the court decided to take the matter up and eventually have the outcomes nullified, the consequences would be devastating for KwaZulu-Natal.
"This is really big; it not only affects the ANC but the provincial government. It could also go the Zuma route where there are appeals and the matter could take a convoluted route. It could destabilise the province because the legitimacy of the provincial government will be undermined."
Booysen said the provincial leadership would be constantly looking over their shoulders before making any decisions.
"The problem is that this is happening in a province where there have been political killings and anything could destabilise the province and more deaths could occur. Political grievances in KwaZulu-Natal don’t go away, they only increase."
She said what further compounded the matter was that there were problems with the regional elective conference and the problems were evident at provincial level and had a knock-on effect on the provincial government.
"Both this matter and the Free State Mangaung one are strong and I think this case could be stronger."
She said KwaZulu-Natal was the flagship province for the party, because it brought in the numbers.
"The election numbers depend on the performance of its flagship province," said Booysen.
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