KZN ANC conference: There could be surprises – sources

2018-06-08 11:01
(Gallo Images, file)

(Gallo Images, file)

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ANC members should expect some surprises at the KwaZulu-Natal provincial congress this weekend.

This is according to at least two provincial leaders and a provincial task team member involved in preparations for the much-anticipated elective conference.

Intense negotiations and violent tensions have characterised the lead-up to this conference, with different factions holding a series of meetings to discuss the five key leadership positions up for grabs and ways to bring unity to the troubled province.

"We agree on one thing and that is for Sihle (Zikalala) to become the chairperson of the province," said one task team member to News24.

Last week City Press reported that members aligned to party president Cyril Ramaphosa had agreed that Zikalala, whose camp was aligned to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's bid for ANC president, should stand uncontested.

Read here: KZN ANC in a bid to avoid a bloody split

Zikalala was previously elected into the position in 2015. His provincial executive committee was disbanded in 2017 after disgruntled ANC members successfully challenged the conference in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court. This resulted in the ANC's largest province only participating in the party's national elective congress in December through branch delegates without a leadership structure.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has also been divided between those members who supported Dlamini-Zuma's bid for party president and those who backed Ramaphosa. The province also suffered a major blow when none of its members made it into the top six structure of the party at Luthuli House.

"We are not contesting each other along the CR (Ramaphosa) versus NDZ (Dlamini-Zuma) lines any longer," emphasised the provincial task team member.

However, question marks remain over the positions of provincial secretary general and the deputy.

"I think we have an agreement on some positions, but the issues of secretary and deputy secretary are still outstanding, but I think this is all in Mdumiseni Ntuli's favour," said the source.

The insider complained that the current secretary general, Super Zuma, was not a satisfactory choice, telling News24 he was a last-minute addition. He added that Zuma should not be re-elected as he was not doing the organisation any good.

'Lack of leadership' to blame for KZN woes

University of KwaZulu-Natal political analyst Lukhona Mnguni agreed with this view, describing Zuma as having "not risen to the task".

Mnguni said it was understandable why Ntuli would be the more preferred candidate as the current secretary's tenure had been lacklustre.

"The issue of secretary was always going to cause friction within the [Zikalala-aligned] people, particularly because Super Zuma has not proven to be the most competent provincial secretary," Mnguni remarked.

"Some of the things that have gone wrong in the ANC in this province are precisely because of a lack of leadership that can steer the ship," he added.

He said there was a sentiment that Zuma should be replaced by someone like Ntuli who commanded "great respect" in his role as provincial spokesperson.

The contest for the position of deputy chairperson might be another one that might yield surprises. 

'Don't write Mchunu off'

A provincial leader told News24 that those who think task team convener Mike Mabuyakhulu will be uncontested for the position of deputy chairperson might be surprised.

Referring to Willies Mchunu, the provincial leader said: "The old man is thought to be tired, but you cannot actually write him off. Don't write off the current deputy chairperson."

He warned that there were other issues that the party was not focusing on and that might result in a failed provincial congress.

"Two hours in politics is a lot. Anything can happen this weekend, but if we manage to start the conference, we should be able to complete it," said the party insider. He said he was worried about the impact of a potential threat stemming from disgruntled members who have threatened to take the party to court if branches from the Moses Mabhida region participate in the conference.

The troubled region's executive committee was disbanded. It is one of the hot spots in the province that have been rocked by political tensions and assassinations.

At a media briefing on Tuesday, Zikalala told journalists that the conference would go ahead even if some branches were not participating.

Read more: KZN ANC ready to go to conference despite absence of some branches

The ANC heads to conference as its former president Jacob Zuma appears before the KwaZulu-Natal High Court on 16 charges of corruption relating to 783 payments he received in connection with the controversial arms deal.

The former president, who is often seen during public engagements across the province, is said to still be highly influential, with some believing he still wants the 2015 leadership collective to remain. 

LIVE: 'Zuma, Zuma!' - crowd shouts its support for Jacob Zuma

Although there has been some scepticism over an "arranged" conference, analysts including Mnguni think this might just help quell fires in the volatile province.

"Having a conference, staged or not staged, might be in the best interests of the province. You can't indefinitely postpone the stability of KZN because you say '[we must wait] until we've resolved all the issues on the table'," said Mnguni.

He said it also mattered which group between the political elite and their rank and file accepted a brokered leadership.

"In that the elite would want to work together and try [to] marshal their forces in the rank and file to cease fire for now [so that] you have a hegemonic leadership that is respected and can drive the KZN ANC towards an election victory for 2019," said the political analyst.

But News24 resident analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela warns that a staged conference "in an attempt to resolve issues" might have undesirable consequences. 

"It might actually raise more conflict than settle it," said Mkhabela.

He said making a staged conference work would require that the different factions agree on a programme even before the start of Friday's conference.

Negotiations were expected to continue until nominations are concluded. The conference ends on Sunday. 

Read more on:    anc  |  durban  |  politics

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