Fresh effort to diffuse KZN crisis

ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial chair Sihle Zikalala is not backing down. Picture: Jabulani Langa
ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial chair Sihle Zikalala is not backing down. Picture: Jabulani Langa

Two legal opinions – one allegedly “personally” solicited by President Jacob Zuma – have given the leadership of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal a lifeline by endorsing a decision to appeal a recent court decision invalidating the structure.

But the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) is not ready to run to court – yet – and it has instead delegated the national officials, including Zuma, to meet with the warring camps in the province today in a bid to find a political solution ahead of the national conference in December.

The NEC meeting on Friday was the last ordinary session under Zuma’s term before he steps down in December and hands the party over to a new leader. The next sitting will conclude preparations for the conference.

City Press heard from those attending the weekend meeting, which was initially scheduled to continue until today, but was adjourned following a “peaceful” session, that only one of the two legal advice reports was presented and accepted “without any discussion”.

The other report was mentioned, but details were not presented.

Insiders said the tabled legal advice, written by Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana SC, recommend that the KwaZulu-Natal ANC could appeal last month’s Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling that nullified the 2015 election of the party’s provincial executive committee following a court challenge by a group of disgruntled members.

It also proposed that the provincial executive committee be suspended for a period of three months pending the appeal to ensure that the processes leading to the party’s conference were not tainted.

The NEC, however, resolved that the officials take a different approach and instead try to bring the two opposing factions together in talks.

A member of the committee said: “We thought that is was the option that was acceptable to both sides. You cannot have a winner-takes-all situation, so it has to be a win-win for everybody.”

The member added that the proposal to set up an interim leadership in the province was therefore still on the table.

However, those close to the contested KwaZulu-Natal ANC leadership, led by ANC provincial chair, said the outcome of the NEC “means that the status quo remains and, therefore, Sihle remains in power”.

It is expected that Zikalala’s backers will use the legal advice to push back against the disgruntled group associated with his predecessor, former provincial premier Senzo Mchunu.

Zuma has openly backed his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to take over the reins when he steps down, however, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is prepared to run against her, as are up to six other aspirant candidates, including ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, his predecessor Mathews Phosa, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete.

City Press also heard that the NEC referred an appeal by disgruntled former soldiers of the ANC’s military wing Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) to a 10-member committee led by former SA Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni.

Mboweni’s committee is expected to report back to the powerful ANC national working committee, which will then make recommendations to
the NEC.

The MK Military Veterans’ Association, led by Kebby Maphatsoe, a staunch Zuma ally, had been accused of excluding other former soldiers from participating in its national elective conference in June.

The association also backs Dlamini-Zuma to become the next president of the ANC.

Meanwhile, a legal battle is looming in the Free State as detractors of provincial ANC chairperson Premier Ace Magashule up the ante in a campaign against the “lifelong chairperson”.

Magashule, a Zuma supporter, has served as chairperson in the province since 1994.

His deputy, Thabo Manyoni, is looking to unseat him when the long overdue provincial conference eventually takes place.

Growing restless with repeated postponements of the congress, a group in the province that supports Ramaphosa is working on an anti-Magashule campaign.

The group, which will support former Free State MEC Mxolisi Dukwana, has considered approaching the NEC to compel the body to establish a provincial task team to take the province to the December conference, given that the mandate of the current provincial executive committee has expired.

But the group has now been promised that the conference will happen next month.

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