Addressing delegates at the ANC's nomination conference in Durban, Zweli Mkhize has said that the issue of who will lead the party has been settled.
KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC province set to take the largest number of voting branch delegates to its national elective conference in Mangaung in December, reaffirmed its backing of incumbent president Jacob Zuma at the start of its provincial nominations conference on Saturday.
Speaking at the Olive Conference Centre on Durban's beachfront, Zweli Mkhize, KwaZulu-Natal premier and provincial ANC chairperson opened the conference by stating, unequivocally, that on the question of nominations: "uZuma uyBhuya" (Zuma is coming back).
KwaZulu-Natal, will furnish 974 delegates from a total of 4 500 at the elective conference in Mangaung and Mkhize told a media briefing on Saturday that the provincial leadership "expect[ed] to take the full quota to Mangaung".
He added that the provincial auditing process was still ongoing, but that "the majority of the [province's] 828 branches" were audited and compliant. According to deputy provincial secretary, Nomusa Dube, less than 50 branches were left to be verified at the beginning if this week.
Zuma's home-province of KwaZulu-Natal represents a vital voting bloc for the president if his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe challenges him for the ANC's top seat. Motlanthe has already been nominated by the ANC Youth League – which appears hell-bent on replacing Zuma - but he has yet to indicate whether he is willing to contest elections.
Mkhize himself would not be drawn on his nomination, last week by the eThekwini region, for the position of national treasurer, saying he would address it "only when we get to that point"
Earlier, Mkhize told the nominations conference that the province had a "special responsibility" to "bring depth to the content of the discussions" at Mangaung, as the country required the ANC to be unified and "bring hope and optimism" to every citizen.
Listing some of the pressing issues that confronted South Africa, Mkhize said discussions and policy resolutions around instability in the mining sector, a focus on fine-tuning the national development, farm workers' conditions, education, health and the economy, all required intensive interrogation by delegates so that input on policy resolutions could be made.
"KwaZulu-Natal must provide the solutions that South Africa is looking for," said Mkhize.
In a swipe at former ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema, Mkhize said that nationalisation required discussion away from it being used opportunistically as a "rallying call" for leadership struggles within the party.
Earlier, South African Communist Party (SACP) secretary general Blade Nizimande addressed the conference and urged the tripartite alliance to "close ranks" to "defend our revolution" and the president from "attacks".
The conference will deal with policy matters today with the discussions, nominations and voting on leadership set to take place on Sunday.
Aside from Nzimande, who is higher education minister, the conference was also attended by several pro-Zuma Cabinet ministers from the province, who are also on the ANC's national executive committee, including public enterprise minister Malusi Gigaba, Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele and Sibusiso Ndebele, the minister of correctional services.