Newly-elected ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli is one of those rare party leaders who do not get angry when people brand it as a corrupt organisation.
“I think as the ANC we need to accept that there are those kinds of perceptions out there. It will be wrong to label each and every individual who subscribes to the view that the ANC is corrupt as a counter revolutionary,” he says.
Ntuli (39) who cut his political teeth in the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), is, however, quick to point out that there is a distinction between the ANC as an organisation and people who occupy leadership positions in the party.
“Indeed, you do find certain individuals within the ANC who are corrupt. But that does not mean the ANC is in itself a corrupt organisation,” he said.
“If you look at the ANC’s constitution, policies and resolutions, there is no way you can arrive at the conclusion that it is a corrupt organisation. Very much to the contrary, you would find that it is a caring organisation, totally opposed to corruption.”
Part of the young generation of leaders currently creating waves within the top leadership structures, and in the process infusing new energy and political thought, Ntuli was elected to the powerful position of provincial secretary at the KwaZulu-Natal provincial conference held in Durban in July.
Previously the party’s provincial spokesperson, Ntuli achieved what many would have regarded as the unthinkable when he defeated one of former president Jacob Zuma closest allies, Super Zuma.
Ntuli, who hails from KwaXimba — the ANC’s biggest branch in the country — was on the verge of moving to the ANC headquarters in Luthuli House to take up a managerial position when party members in the province asked him to stand for the provincial secretary position.
“One of the things which people should understand about the ANC is that no one can just wake up and say I want to be elected to this or that position.
“ANC members must approach you and request you to stand as a candidate for a particular position,” he said.
A former University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) student, Ntuli, who holds an honours degree in politics, did not only take his studies seriously, but also deeply immersed himself in student politics.
By the time he completed his university studies, he had risen to the position of Students Representative Council (SRC) president.
“What my student days taught me was the importance of hard work, humility, willingness to learn, ability to adapt and being patient with people.”
Ntuli, whose provincial secretary position is equivalent to that of a regional chief executive, steps into his new role at a time when the ANC in KZN is facing a mountain of challenges, ranging from internal divisions to dwindling support due government’s failure to deliver services, particularly to the poor.
The party’s divisions, often accompanied by violence, have driven several municipalities controlled by it in the province to a state of paralysis.
According to the latest Auditor-General report on municipalities in the province, only seven of the 54 councils received clean audits, 33 had unqualified audits with findings, 10 received qualified audit while two had adverse audit findings, with a further two having received disclaimers.
Ntuli blames the collapse in the party’s internal unity and poor governance in municipalities on a lack of strong leadership.
“It must be borne in mind that there was a period when the ANC in this province did not have a proper leadership structure in place.
“Lower structures did as they pleased as there was no elected provincial leadership to hold people to account.
“But things are now different as we now have an elected provincial leadership structure in place. The last provincial conference has accepted the authority of the ANC. We are now in a better position to deal with the many changes faced by both the local and provincial governments,” he said.
Ntuli is convinced that the party is now well positioned to register a resounding victory in next year’s general elections.
“Now that the ANC successfully held its provincial conference, opposition parties are in a panic mood, they know what a united and coherent ANC is capable of,” he said.
On emerging divisions within the province as a result of disagreements around whether ANC members should support Jacob Zuma during his court battles, Ntuli said KZN was in talks with the party’s national leadership over the matter.
“We are concerned that the national executive committee’s (NEC) decision to ban party structures from supporting the former president could create more divisions in KZN,” he said.
“It is precisely because of that reason that we are engaging the national leadership.”
The provincial secretary, who despite having become one of the most powerful politicians in the province, still lives at his parents’ house in Number 9, KwaXimba, outside Camperdown, believes he has what it takes to steer the party in the province to safer waters.
“I became active in the ANC at a very young age and I’m now an adult. I have learnt a lot over the years,” he said.