ANC wars: The bough is breaking, when will the cradle fall?

2019-02-26 12:24
ANC head of presidency acting national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa is seen. (Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

ANC head of presidency acting national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa is seen. (Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

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The ANC has been in perpetual conflict with itself for a decade and a half.

Apart from the brief period of organisational hegemony under former president Jacob Zuma, during the height of the project of grand capture between 2011 and 2016, internal conflict has consistently been eating away at the fabric of the former liberation movement.

Recent events reveal internal strife to be more widespread, and dirty, than believed, with allegations about sex crimes now cropping up in what seems like regular intervals. The news on Tuesday morning that Zizi Kodwa, the party's acting spokesperson, has been relieved of his duties wasn't unexpected. When official spokesperson Pule Mabe was accused of sexual misconduct he too was told to step aside. And in this country, with its appalling record of gender violence, alleged sex offenders must be investigated.

Kodwa, as has been reported, has denied all the serious and sordid allegations against him. These include raucous, booze-fuelled parties at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton, the use of the so-called "date rape drug" Rohypnol and an alleged rape. He is seeking legal advice and has said he believes the allegations to be part of a "dirty tricks campaign" and an effort at "political blackmail".

The manner in which the allegations came to light was also unusual. Jessie Duarte, historically not aligned with President Cyril Ramaphosa, was addressing a press conference about the party's attempts to salvage the wreckage that is its North West branch, when she casually admitted in response to a question that allegations have been made against Kodwa.

Normally questions like those are just shut down, especially at press conferences. In Mabe's case the party issued a statement after the story began to circulate, in this case the detail of Kodwa's case was almost offered to the media by Duarte.

Kodwa of course is more than just the ANC's acting spokesperson. He is Ramaphosa's man in the viper's nest that is Luthuli House. Officially, he is head of the president's office at the ANC, and he's tasked with keeping the party leader in the loop about everything that's happening at party HQ. Given that while Ramaphosa is at the Union Buildings, trying to beat back the tentacles of capture, Duarte and Ace Magashule are left to their own devices inside the party.

It was Kodwa's job to make sure nothing happens without Ramaphosa being aware, and with all manner of rumours about factions mobilising ahead of the ANC's National General Council – the mid-term stock-take conference set for next year – removing Kodwa would make sense.

But the internal conflict is playing out in other arenas as well, not least of which in government.

The ANC last week issued a statement attacking two Ramaphosa allies, Pravin Gordhan and Senzo Mchunu, because they allegedly attacked black professionals. The statement wasn't issued under anyone's name in particular, but it normally has to be signed off by the secretary general, in this case, Magashule.

Gordhan was furious and the demanded retraction and apology was duly given 24 hours after the statement was released. Kodwa, it is alleged, wasn't aware of the statement until he started receiving queries from the media about it. Does that mean Magashule, who has said "they" will "take back" the ANC in 2022, is using his office to fight factional battles? He's opposed to plans by Gordhan and Tito Mboweni, minister of finance, to right-size the civil service and parastatals. And he is very nervous about his own fingerprints on state capture machinery.

One of the three battlefronts where Ramaphosa is waging his campaign is inside the ANC (the other two being the state and economy). He wants to effect repairs to the party, having decided that the state can only function if the party is in better shape. That task, given the last 15 years, is herculean and almost impossible.

For Ramaphosa to have a hope of stabilising the ANC it needs to cohere ahead of the May election and it needs to unite afterwards. It hasn't however been able to do that for years. And internal contradictions, suspicions, vested interests, criminality and the demands of networks, patronage and factions are making it impossible.

Just look at events over the last seven days.

Read more on:    anc  |  zizi ko­dwa  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  ace maga­shule  |  pule mabe
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