Edge of the seat tension between ANC's KZN leaders

2016-02-23 20:32

Durban – Despite alleged tension between KwaZulu-Natal premier, Senzo Mchunu, and ANC provincial chairperson, Sihle Zikalala, the two men on Tuesday refuted claims there was any acrimony between them.

But many who attended Tuesday’s opening of the legislature at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday have a different story to tell. A seating hiccough resulted in Mchunu taking the second seat, when the first seat is traditionally given to the premier, and it was this that set tongues wagging.

A senior government official who asked not to be named said: “The premier sat on the second seat, then an official from the legislature asked him to sit on the first chair. The premier was very angry and irritated that he had to be removed from the second seat to the first.”

The source said the first seat had always been allocated for the premier, but Zikalala was apparently seated there at the time. 

Inkatha Freedom Party's Blessed Gwala said the IFP was concerned about the “deepening” tensions between the two leaders.

Gwala said, “I see no reason why Sihle should occupy a seat allocated for the premier. This shows that Sihle is powerful and that Senzo is nothing. This is nothing more than a coup d'état, he has not even been elected as the premier. Sihle is an ordinary member of the legislature.”

No tensions

Zikalala dismissed suggestions that there were tensions between him and Mchunu. He also denied that there was a seating mistake on Tuesday, after he apparently sat on the seat reserved for Mchunu.  

“That is not true, it is a lie, there was no such thing,” said Zikalala.  

Mchunu’s spokesperson, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, also denied the claims. “We reject this allegation and we believe that it is being peddled by individuals and groupings that are consumed by jealousy.

“These people thrive on chaos and we are not surprised that they were visualising skirmishes today.”

Mchunu said those that were “disappointed by the public display of unity were manufacturing stories...”

King Goodwill Zwelithini delivered the keynote address at the opening where he urged leaders of political parties to put the country first.

Zwelithini said: “We need courageous leaders, regardless of their racial and political make-up, who can rise above personal interests and help us in navigating the current challenges.”

Opposition weighs in

In November members of the opposition staged a walk out of legislature during Zikalala’s swearing-in ceremony. MPLs claimed Zikalala was given special treatment, including sitting on a seat reserved for Mchunu.

Gwala said premiers were considered the first citizen of a province. “We are worried when leaders are at loggerheads because we have the State of the Province this week.”

The DA's Sizwe Mchunu said: “This was done deliberately and it is the same thing that happened when Sihle was inaugurated at the legislature.”

He said after the seating furore, leaders were called by the speaker of the legislature who explained that the first seat is always allocated to the leader of the ruling party.

He said the tensions between Zikalala and Mchunu were concerning.

Economic Freedom Fighters Vusi Khoza, said: “The tensions are obvious, some members did not even stand when the premier walked in.”


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