Can the ANC conquer divisions and hold crucial eThekwini conference?

2015-08-11 11:22
James Nxumalo. Picture: Abraham Kortjaas/City Press

James Nxumalo. Picture: Abraham Kortjaas/City Press (Abraham Kortjaas)

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The long-awaited rerun of the ANC’s crucial eThekwini regional conference is expected to take place at the end of August following two postponements and an annulment of its outcome earlier this year. 

Sources in the region said that a group headed by sitting eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo was pushing for the conference to sit from August 28 to August 30, but that the date was still to be confirmed by the team appointed by Luthuli House to oversee the holding of the conference along with the provincial leadership. 

The last attempt to stage the conference – crucial if the region and KwaZulu-Natal are to flex their muscle at the coming national general council – ended in chaos after delegates backing Nxumalo’s opponent for chair of the region, Zandile Gumede, staged a revolt over alleged barring of their delegates. A team led by national executive committee member Joe Paahla was appointed to oversee the process of staging the new conference, which is also critical if the ruling party is to get its house in order in time to successfully defend its control over the eThekwini municipality in next year’s local government election. 

The standoff in eThekwini has been linked to the realignment of forces ahead of the end of President Jacob Zuma’s second and final term. Nxumalo’s faction is said to be favoured – and supported by – the lobby loyal to sitting provincial chair and Premier Senzo Mchunu. The Gumede grouping is understood to back a possible bid for the premiership by Zikalala and a bid for the ANC deputy presidency by current treasurer Zweli Mkhize. 

ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala refused to confirm conference dates, saying that the national task team and other structures still needed to be consulted before the conference can go ahead. 

“There will be a statement after we engage with structures and ensure that we have instilled discipline, dealt with the issues of unity and expressed the importance of unity with all concerned. We are consulting with national on issues and we will then have a date,’’ Zikalala said. 

Zikalala was confident that there would be no additional challenges to the holding of the conference. This was despite an apparent call by the ANC Youth League in the province at the recent provincial executive committee meeting that the process of selecting delegates be repeated because their mandates had expired. 

“Not at all. We will be having a conference soon,’’ he said. 

A source at the provincial executive committee meeting said the youth league position that the delegates were no longer in good standing had been countered with the argument that the conference had been postponed, not cancelled, and that the delegates were still in good standing. 

A second source said that the region had been “lambasted’’ by the national executive committee for being “owned’’ by tenderpreneurs who were funding both sides in a bid to ensure that their business interests were protected no matter which faction emerged victorious. 

“My own feeling is that it won’t go ahead by month end,’’ said a branch chairperson. 

“The same forces that were able to delay the conference so far are still controlling the whole game. The problem is that the region is going to remain divided and a divided region means the ANC will take a knock next year,’’ he said.

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