ANC election: The battle for KZN is far from over

Sihle Zikalala (Picture: Beeld)
Sihle Zikalala (Picture: Beeld)

In this noisy year of political theatre it is baffling to me that certain ideas can continue to be punted in opinion pieces and the media, while being factually incorrect.

The recent ruling by the Pietermaritzburg High Court that declared the 2015 election of the ANC provincial executive in KwaZulu-Natal unlawful is a good example of this.

Following the court judgment, wild suggestions of a total swing of support to Cyril Ramaphosa, a replacement of the leadership by the NEC, and the disqualification of KZN at the electoral conference, etc. were made.

With so much at stake not only for the ANC but for the country, it is important to correct some of these statements.

After the ruling some opinion pieces suggested that the ANC NEC would simply replace Sihle Zikalala with Senzo Mchunu. This is totally incorrect. The court declared the entire provincial election invalid and thus the whole 30 person executive has to be re-elected.

Even if it was the case that the judgment only applied to the provincial chairperson, the ANC NEC couldn’t just replace one leader with another. It would be against the ANC’s constitution and given the huge divisions in the ANC in general and KZN specifically, it would cause chaos and most likely large-scale violence.  

It was also suggested that the KZN ANC would have another provincial election before the electoral conference in order for the province to be represented at the conference or run the risk of being disqualified.

Even though it is true that another conference would have to be held in order to replace the current executive, it is not correct that it would need to be held before the electoral conference.

The ANC constitution states clearly that the conference is constituted by branches and not provinces. Since the court ruling only applies to the provincial executive it does not affect branch representation and thus the electoral conference at all.

Since KZN is by far the biggest province in the ANC, it is also inconceivable that the conference could take place with KZN being disqualified.

So what happens now?

It comes as no surprise that the affected leadership in KZN wants to take the matter on appeal. Since it is unlikely that the appeal would be heard before the conference, it would mean that the current leadership would stay in place until the conference.

However, the NEC has made it clear that they, and not the KZN PEC, would make a final decision on the matter on Friday. From what I can gather it is unlikely that the NEC will grant them permission to appeal.

It is also unlikely that a new provincial conference can be held in the next 90 days before the party’s electoral conference.

In that case the NEC would appoint a temporary task team (PTT) to run the province. This happens relatively frequently when provincial executives are disbanded.

The PTT will then take over all matters in the province including those relating to the conference. Of course it would be very important to appoint the correct people to serve on the PTT in order to prevent further factional problems.

Apart from these procedural issues, the question remains as to what extent the result of the court case could impact the outcome of the elections at the conference?

Without any doubt the court case was a victory of sorts for the anti-Zuma camp – even beyond KZN. It is important to remember that the 2015 KZN provincial election was held almost 2 years early.

My understanding is that when the early conference was proposed to the NEC it was met with large scale resistance. However, the protests were overridden by President Zuma and the conference went ahead, to the annoyance of many NEC members. Apparently this played a big role in the split between Zuma and former police commissioner Bheki Cele.

So the court judgment is undoubtedly a vindication for those who opposed Zuma and the Zuma faction on this matter, not only in KZN but also in the NEC.

But will it have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the presidential race?

I believe it is incorrect to suggest that the judgment automatically brought about a big swing in support for Ramaphosa. Although the provincial chairpersons and executive have some influence on the branches they do not control the branches and therefore branch delegates will ultimately vote the way they have been instructed to do by their branches, irrespective of who controls the province.

However, a PTT should be more neutral than the current pro-Zuma PEC thus levelling the playing field for Ramaphosa. One could assume that the PTT would reduce the possibility of large scale corruption of, for example, the accreditation process leading up to the electoral conference. They will also be involved in the final stages of the crucial membership audit in KZN.

Ultimately the big question remains to what extent will delegates be bribed to vote for a certain candidate/s? As we have seen at previous conferences this can be the real deciding factor and is something that the PTT will not be able to control no matter how hard they try.

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland. 

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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