After the embarrassment of failing to win a post at Nasrec conference in 2017, the province is trying to make amends
Former leaders of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal have been in talks with the current provincial leadership as the province moves to find consensus around who should contest for the party’s national top six positions in 2022.
The province’s leaders have warned that the next national general council should not be used to test the strength of factions or to target any leaders ahead of the next national elective conference.
In an interview with City Press, provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said unity was paramount for the province in order to avert the loss of the city of eThekwini in next year’s polls.
The leaders also want to avoid a repeat of the 2017 national elective conference where KwaZulu-Natal failed in its bid to have a representative in the ANC top six leadership positions, despite fielding five candidates.
From ongoing talks, the provincial executive committee is likely to adopt a road map for four regional conferences which were postponed last year, while the mother body is expected to set up a new digital membership system.
The four regions are the Lower South Coast, Josiah Gumede, Moses Mabhida and eThekwini.
Ntuli said that avoiding tensions after the conferences was vital for the province’s unity and for the ANC as a whole, given the size of the eThekwini region.
He said that the conferences would start next month and would all be done by mid-April.
A pending membership audit would confirm whether or not eThekwini had maintained its position as the biggest ANC region in the country.
Ntuli said that maintaining that status was paramount given that “it is the biggest metro led by the ANC in terms of both support and membership”.
City Press understands that former provincial leaders, including Senzo Mchunu and Zweli Mkhize, have been engaged in peace talks following the 2017 embarrassment.
The province’s woes began with the ousting of Mchunu as chairperson in favour of Sihle Zikalala at the conference in 2015.
The outcome of that conference was nullified by the high court in 2017.
Ntuli did not mention names but said that the talks were “not necessarily a secret” and that the provincial executive committee had been tasked with mending fences.
“There is an engagement which we are involved in which says that looking to the future – both as the province and at a national level – we should not be in the same situation we were in 2017 when the province was divided with many potential candidates [earmarked] for responsibilities at a national level for KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.
Mkhize, Mchunu, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Nathi Mthethwa and Jeff Radebe all vied for positions in the ANC’s top six at the Nasrec conference which elected Cyril Ramaphosa as party president in 2017.
“If KwaZulu-Natal should have comrades or a comrade at the top level of the leadership, we will have to have consensus as a province as we did in the past. When we are united we are unstoppable, what we say happens because of our influence – without arrogance.
“But when we are divided, it doesn’t work out. It doesn’t work out for the ANC [mother body] itself either. For many years the ANC has somehow depended, to a large extent, on what KwaZulu-Natal does as part of its contribution to unite and strengthen the party,” Ntuli said.
“I think since 2017, there is consensus across the board that that responsibility was not exercised by ourselves and we must correct it before the next generation of leaders [are elected].”
The provincial secretary also warned that the upcoming national general council must be used only to discuss the party’s renewal and programmes of the ANC and not to settle political scores.
“What we will not accept – and we have said this to the national leaders – is that the national general council is a platform where we are outmanoeuvring each other ahead of the next conference. It must be a platform to assess progress since the last conference and where we are repositioning the ANC as an effective instrument to change the lives of our people,” he said.
The province would also be ready to quash any targeting of the current leaders, he said.
“If you start removing leaders at a national general council or you sow that seed, the ANC will be chaotic because the ANC will depart from its conventional way of doing things.
“Instead of going to the national general council or policy conference, it becomes a meeting where we test each other’s power.
“That is not going to be helpful for an organisation with a huge responsibility to lead the country. Some comrades may project themselves in such a way that it doesn’t seem as if they are aware of that responsibility but it’s a big one,” Ntuli said.