Jacob Zuma’s supporters are mounting a spirited fight against what they see as his unfair isolation and the alleged marginalisation of those who did not support President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC’s national elective conference at Nasrec in December.
As Zuma launched strident threats against his foes in the ANC alliance, his supporters rallied behind him and vowed to resist pressure by the party’s national leadership not to openly support him during his criminal trial.
. The war for control of KwaZulu-Natal between staunch Zuma backers – who want to tighten his grip on the organisation’s structures in the province – and those wanting a united front ahead of next year’s polls resulted in the ANC’s provincial conference being interdicted at the last minute;
Delegates to the aborted KwaZulu-Natal conference shouted down and drowned out ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, a Ramaphosa ally; and
. ANC North West chairperson and former premier Supra Mahumapelo warned post-Nasrec “triumphalists” that they were power drunk and that their “intoxication with power would lead to the destruction of the ANC”.
The chaotic scenes at the provincial conference, which was scheduled to start on Friday, followed a failed attempt to forge a unity slate that would bring together the warring factions. It is believed that those close to Zuma did not want to accommodate their opponents. It is also believed that Zuma himself was not in favour of a compromise deal, preferring his supporters to make a clean sweep of leadership positions.
SUPRA SLAMS TRIUMPHALISTS
Mahumapelo, who repeatedly referred to Zuma as “our president” outside the Durban High Court on Friday, told City Press that those who backed Ramaphosa at the December conference were violating the rights of those who supported his rival, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
“You know there are these triumphalists from Nasrec. Nasrec is over. That chapter must be closed. We must move forward and build the organisation. It is wrong for people who were supporting President Ramaphosa to now behave as if they are the organisation,” he said.
“All of us are members of the organisation; we are equal in the ANC. We were expressing and exercising our right to choose who to vote for in Nasrec.
“We supported comrade Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. We can’t, after conference, be ostracised.
“Our rights are being trampled upon by some members who believe that those who were supporting comrade Dlamini-Zuma can’t play any role in the organisation; they can’t lead in the organisation, they must be pushed to the periphery.”
Mahumapelo warned that “people must not be triumphalist because triumphalism is going to destroy the ANC. I raise this all the time, in the national executive committee [NEC], I raise it.”
He criticised the ANC for distancing itself from Zuma and said the party had shown disregard for the country and the ANC’s constitutions – implying that the ANC leadership had already decided that Zuma was guilty before a court had ruled on his case.
He said party members had bowed to pressure to treat the former president as a leper.
“When you are a populist, you know what is right, but you don’t stand for what is right. You will say everything that is wrong against the things that are right because you want to appear relevant,” he said.
“You want to be praised by people. You want to be loved by the media; you want to appear on TV; you want to appear in the newspapers when you don’t stick to principles that must govern the organisation, the revolution and life in general.”
NO NEW PARTY
Mahumapelo dismissed reports that he and Zuma were part of a plan to form a breakaway party. He said ANC members and the media who did not want to confront the wrongs in the ANC had concocted this idea: “There are people who want to kill me, that is an open secret. We are not going to be threatened in the ANC and, when we stand up, people then say that we want to form another organisation.
“We are not going to form another organisation. We will remain in the ANC. Whatever is wrong must be corrected and we are not going to be blackmailed. That is why I resigned as a premier because I said there are many people I must fight legally. There are many people I must also fight politically, and I don’t want people tomorrow to say that I am using the position of premier to fight those people politically and to fight them literally.”
ZUMA IS NO JESUS
Addressing his supporters outside court on Friday, Zuma warned his detractors that he was in the war for the long haul. He said that, unlike Jesus, who tolerated abuse because God had sent him to do his earthly bidding, he had no such restrictions because he had sent himself.
“Ngazi thuma mina,” he said, playing on Ramaphosa’s chosen slogan #ThumaMina. He said he had no qualms about standing up for himself.
RAMAPHOSA BACKERS REJECTED
When KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala announced on Friday evening that the conference had been interdicted, he failed to stop the booing of NEC members, and Ramaphosa allies Bheki Cele and Jackson Mthembu. A standoff ensued between Mantashe and pro-Zuma delegates.
From the moment Zikalala introduced Mantashe, the keynote speaker, delegates sympathetic to Zuma drowned him out with their singing.
Refusing to be disrespected, Mantashe forged ahead, saying: “If this is a gathering of the ANC, I will address it. If this is a factional meeting, I will not address it.”
Despite his repeated interventions, Zikalala failed to call the members, who responded only to him, to order. At one point, Mantashe began his speech as “Wenzeni uZuma” droned on.
After a deadlock that saw the media given the boot, it was decided that the gathering would be put on ice and legal advice would be sought regarding the prospects of forging ahead with the conference, despite the interdict.
At a press conference yesterday, Zikalala apologised to Mantashe. He said the behaviour wasn’t directed at him personally. “It has transpired that there is a level of frustration from ANC members about what is alleged to be divisive interference from some leaders of the ANC at a national level who peddle divisions in the province. And, by association, national officials get affected as if it is directed at them,” he said.
‘ZIKA-NTULI’ VS ‘ZIKA-ZUMA’
Meanwhile, an interdict against the ANC’s provincial conference – obtained by members of the Lower South Coast, Moses Mabhida and Harry Gwala regions – gave Zuma strongman Super Zuma a second life.
City Press understands that lobbying was under way for Mdumiseni Ntuli, who served alongside Super Zuma in the now-nullified provincial executive committee (PEC), to accept a nomination to challenge Super Zuma for the powerful position of provincial secretary. The nomination would have come from the conference floor.
A new formation, coined “Zika-Ntuli”, an amalgamation of supporters of Zikalala and Ntuli, was set to face off against the “Zika-Zuma” faction, which had, until now, dominated the province. The latter is made up of those who back Zikalala and Zuma.
A Zika-Ntuli lobbyist told City Press that the two Zumas were the most divisive factors in a province that desperately needed to be rebuilt.
It’s understood that the former president rejected a compromise list made up of all warring factions at a meeting on Wednesday evening. The list included Zikalala as chairperson, Willies Mchunu as deputy chairperson, Ntuli as secretary, Nomusa Dube-Ncube as deputy secretary and Mike Mabuyakhulu as treasurer.
The push for Ntuli has gained ground, with younger members hell-bent on being recognised in top structures and calling for a “generational mix”, where they could be relieved of older leaders.
One lobbyist said they were tired of being shunted around by “old men” in the province.
Zikalala said a court application would be launched for an earlier date for the provincial ANC to present its case. The court instructed all parties to return on July 7.
Zikalala said a view to impose harsh sanctions on those who took the ANC to court emerged from talks with delegates. Last year, Cele encouraged ANC members to keep taking the party to court.
Provincial ANC members hope to convince the NEC to give them another shot at holding a conference within six weeks.
The NEC was at loggerheads earlier this year on whether to allow provincial and regional conferences to go ahead before next year’s general election.
In the Free State, members vowed to go to court to challenge the outcome of a provincial conference held last month, after its PEC was dissolved last year, following a court judgment.
In North West, plans are afoot to dissolve the Mahumapelo-led PEC. He told City Press he was aware of these plans and was not worried about them.
“If they want to dissolve us, that is fine. We will remain members of the ANC. We will remain in the branches of the ANC. We will use the structures of the ANC to continue to raise what is wrong,” Mahumapelo said.