Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede could make a dramatic comeback as the ANC’s regional chairperson next month.
Gumede, who is playing the unity card ahead of the eThekwini conference, has reportedly been lobbying for support in her bid to become the regional chairperson amid fears that the governing party might lose the city of Durban in next year’s local government elections.
Gumede was arrested last year on fraud, corruption and money laundering charges involving millions of rands and is out on R50 000 bail.
She is likely to go head to head with prominent ANC branch leader Thabani Nyawose, to lead the governing party’s biggest region with 110 branches.
Both are members of the regional task team set up last year when the regional executive committee was disbanded.
City Press understands that Gumede is hell-bent on making a comeback despite the criminal charges hanging over her head, which would foil the plans of her opponents who want her gone.
Gumede and her supporters are adamant that the criminal charges are politically motivated and she will be vindicated.
Sources close to Gumede last week said she has been in talks with Nyawose “to try and find common ground”.
They claimed she was willing to offer Nyawose, a key figure in Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC leadership campaign in 2017, the deputy chairperson position but he rejected the offer.
Nyawose told City Press that no such offer had been made to him.
He said he would not entertain such talks until nominations officially opened and the branches backed him as a candidate for the top position.
He also said that he was against slates which usually were not the will of the branches.
Gumede’s slate is said to include ANC Youth League regional chairperson Thembo Ntuli while Nyawose’s camp has former regional secretary Bheki Ntuli, Mthunzi Dlamini, Ntokozo Sibiya and youth league provincial secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo.
The conference could be crucial for Sabelo, who took up a senior role in the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality last year after Gumede’s removal but has run out of rope in the youth league.
Delays in holding the ANCYL conference have set back his ambitions to become the president of the embattled youth league. Joining the mother body in eThekwini would give him a political lifeline.
Sabelo and Gumede fell out in 2017 after the former mayor felt betrayed by him when he switched allegiances, throwing his weight behind Mdumiseni Ntuli for the position of provincial secretary, which left Super Zuma out in the cold.
It’s also understood that former premier Willies Mchunu has been playing the role of mediator between the warring factions in eThekwini.
The region has been in turmoil since Gumede’s rise in 2015 when she beat former mayor James Nxumalo at the last regional conference, whose legitimacy was later challenged in court.
Gumede is set to team up with Musa Nciki, a staunch ally of former KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Zweli Mkhize, in the hope of cooling tensions stemming from the 2017 provincial and national conferences, which bitterly divided what was previously the kingmaker province in the ANC.
In an interview with City Press last week, provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli, said the provincial executive committee would ensure that there was minimal fall out after the regional conference.
Ntuli said that while there were still residual tensions from the 2017 fall out, new alliances have since been forged.
“Tensions are no longer entirely on the basis of where you stood in 2017. If you look at eThekwini, comrade Nyawose was part of what was called CR17 campaign and comrade Bheki Ntuli was in the NDZ [Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma camp]. But now they are teaming up for the positions of chair and secretary of the region. This is an indication that to some extent, comrades have transcended the 2017 divide and are looking at things on the basis of their own situations.
“What we are inculcating in the comrades is that if eThekwini were to be in a contest similar to what we saw in 2015, we are going to lose the city. So it is immaterial whether you won at the conference or not in this case because we will lose the city. People of eThekwini sent a signal last year that they were not happy with the state of affairs.
“They are not happy with the way we elevate our own differences in matters which affect society.”
In last year’s national elections, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal saw a shocking 10% decline in support, garnering only 54% of the votes compared to 65% in 2014.
Mdumiseni Ntuli also warned that the victors at the regional conference should not bet on being installed in councils.
“The deployment in councils is the prerogative of the provincial executive committee (PEC). The regions make recommendations and the PEC takes decisions.
“Now the PEC took a decision less than a year ago and the conference outcome will not change that decision. The only change which might take place, subject to conditions at the time, is after elections,” he said.
Those close to Gumede said she has made peace with losing her job as mayor and has not set her sights on returning to running the city.