A lot has changed since Lawrence Dube rushed from KwaZulu-Natal to ANC headquarters – Luthuli House in Johannesburg – to deliver 36 letters contesting the election of new leaders in his province in 2015.
Now, after two years of frustration and sacrifices, he believes it could have been avoided had the ANC national leadership taken branches seriously and moved fast to resolve disputes.
Dube is the ANC’s Ward 22 councillor in the Abaqulusi region and an optometrist who has lost his business as a result of the legal battles.
He was the main applicant in the court case that threw a spanner in the works for the ANC this week.
On Tuesday, the Pietermaritzburg High Court declared as unlawful and void the conference that elected Sihle Zikalala to the position of ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson in November 2015.
He replaced Senzo Mchunu.
Dube says the legal route was the last option. Weeks went by without a response to their letters of complaint.
A meeting with disgruntled branches in the Abaqulusi region resolved to seek the services of a lawyer, who wrote a letter to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe asking for a response.
At his home in Heidelberg, Gauteng, on Friday afternoon, a soft-spoken Dube reflected on the hurdles he and other ANC members who backed Mchunu had to overcome.
Dube recalled how he felt a sense of shock and helplessness after receiving a response from Mantashe in which he did not address their complains.
Instead, he criticised them for communicating through a lawyer.
This attitude from the mother body left them no choice but to go the legal route, he said.
Their detractors have called them counter-revolutionaries and a Mchunu-rented crowd from rural KwaZulu-Natal.
“I take it as an insult,” he says.
“I’m a practising private optometrist. Ever since this thing started, I couldn’t think of doing that work. My business was affected and, obviously, my income and lifestyle changed. It had an impact on my family and friends.
"They are always worried, given the understanding of how violent KwaZulu-Natal is.”
“I had faith in God and still have faith"
Dube was chairperson in the Lebo Ngubane branch in Heidelberg, before moving to Vryheid in 2009, where he worked as an optometrist.
He transferred his ANC membership to his new home, in Abaqulusi, where he is now an ANC branch treasurer.
“I had faith in God and still have faith. Hence I’m just sitting here without a bodyguard. I am worried, but I put everything in God because I always jokingly say that, if something terrible happens, it means it will be God’s timing.”
Dube believes that a planned appeal by the KwaZulu-Natal ANC executive committee stands no chance in overturning the ruling, as a full bench of judges heard the matter and came to a conclusion.
The reluctance by the leadership under Zikalala to relinquish power is due to frustration, he says.
“Imagine a situation where you are holding power and then you wake up in the morning and told you are there unlawfully.”
Dube hopes the ANC national executive committee (NEC), which is expected to sit next Friday, will make the right decision about the judgment.
“The secretary-general [Mantashe] must have gotten a letter from our advocate by now.
"There should be a letter indicating that we are expecting the provincial executive committee to be out of office. Forty-eight hours is gone.”
Until the provincial executive committee brought an application for leave to appeal, it had to vacate the office, he said.
“The NEC must speedily sort out this matter and establish a task team.”
He said an unfavourable decision from the NEC would mean one thing: that branches must choose their leaders wisely at the national elective conference in December.
Dube has already nailed his colours to the mast and supports Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who Dube believes can save the ANC and bring about unity.