President Jacob Zuma put up a spirited fight in defence of the dissolution of the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee.
However, this was defeated in favour of a more unifying option – putting in place a caretaker team that will prepare branches for the crucial national elective conference in December.
During a special national executive committee (NEC) meeting on Friday, Zuma led the call for members to support the KwaZulu-Natal leadership’s decision to appeal against the Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling, handed down last week, that their election in 2015 was unlawful and void.
“Zuma was by far the strongest person in favour of keeping the provincial executive committee [PEC],” said one NEC member.
“He really went to town insisting that the appeal was the way to go. He didn’t hold back. Ultimately, he lost the fight, but he really went for it.”
Staunch Zuma loyalist Nomvula Mokonyane apparently also went to bat for the PEC. She allegedly went so far as to dismiss the divisions in the party in KwaZulu-Natal. The matter was not serious because only four people were applicants in the court case, she said, according to another NEC member.
“Nomvula was really out of order, saying ridiculous things about how the KwaZulu-Natal divisions were not that widespread. Her analysis is very problematic for a senior leader. This issue has split the province in two.”
Another NEC member said Mokonyane had to be called to order.
“The NEC reminded her that the problem in the province cuts across all regions and that the NEC should work towards uniting everyone.”
The split is between those who support the PEC under chairperson Sihle Zikalala – a close ally of Zuma’s – while the other half supports ousted chairperson Senzo Mchunu.
He is a staunch supporter of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. In recent weeks, he has been campaigning for Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma at the elective conference.
The province has become a battleground for the two sides.
"We have not been dissolved"
NEC members were left confused about the status of the KwaZulu-Natal PEC after ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe announced the outcome of the NEC meeting at a press briefing.
According to a statement issued after the briefing: “The NEC mandated the national working committee to establish a strong, inclusive and unifying provincial task team that will be tasked with preparing for a provincial conference in KwaZulu-Natal.”
Some party members argued that the PEC had been dissolved pending a legal opinion on whether to appeal against the judgment. Others said it remained in place.
Mdumiseni Ntuli, ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson and a PEC member who was elected at the now-unlawful conference, yesterday criticised Mantashe. He stopped short of calling Mantashe’s report back factional.
“We remain the PEC. We have not been dissolved. We have not been disbanded. The secretary-general’s message should have been loud and clear: that the PEC remains with all of its powers, until such time as the legal opinion comes back and gives a different direction,” he told City Press.
“It is clear to us that the ambiguity in the secretary-general’s statement serves those fighting the KwaZulu-Natal PEC. Already, they are rejoicing that we have been disbanded. That is not the case.”
However, an NEC member told City Press that, after clarity was sought at the meeting, ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete stated that the PEC had been dissolved.
“The problem that other comrades are battling to understand is that you can’t establish a task team on top of a PEC. So the PEC is dissolved,” the member said.
“The decision in the NEC was that we immediately suspend operations of the PEC, and the national working committee must now ensure it establishes the provincial task team.”
The NEC member said Mantashe was forced into a delicate balancing act when delivering his report back, given that KwaZulu-Natal is the president’s home province and support base.
“Gwede just had to be sensitive. He couldn’t say ‘dissolution’ because it is an emotive issue.”
It’s understood that the majority of the NEC was in favour of setting up a task team that would not stoke tensions between the Zikalala and Mchunu factions.
Another bone of contention was the proposal that Zikalala’s PEC be converted to a provincial task team, which would take the province to the national elective congress.
In 2012, ahead of the Mangaung conference, ANC members in the Free State took their bid to nullify their provincial conference all the way to the Constitutional Court.
The highest court in the land ruled in favour of the members and their PEC was converted to a task team.
Ntuli said they were disappointed that they were not given the same treatment by the NEC.
Nathi Mthethwa is believed to have shocked the anti-Zuma camp by shooting down the proposal that the PEC be converted to a task team.
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