Zunami to flood KZN conference
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal entered its elective conference yesterday more united than other provinces, with lone Thabo Mbeki loyalist Premier S’bu Ndebele set to hand over the provincial chair quietly.
Provincial Finance Minister Zweli Mkhize, a crucial member of the Jacob Zuma camp, is expected to stand unopposed for the position of chairperson. It is widely speculated that he will serve a year or two as provincial premier before being deployed to national government.
Ndebele dismissed claims that he was being culled by the Zuma camp, intent on bringing the provincial party structures under tight control.
He said that the province was close to completely healing any wound from the succession battle.
On whether he ever felt isolated after publicly endorsing a third-term for Mbeki in a pro-Zuma province, Ndebele said he derived his “strength from those who doubt me” and believed that he had left behind a legacy of peace and prosperity in the province.
The province’s overwhelming support for Zuma has left it less divided than other provinces. Current secretary Senzo Mchunu said the province had not degenerated into the sort of divisive warfare which has led to physical violence in other provinces because of an ingrained culture of “discussing openly and holding true to the idea of democratic centralism”.
However, the position of deputy chair is likely to be strongly contested at the weekend conference, being held at the Durban University of Technology’s Ndumiso campus in Pietermaritzburg.
Of the nomination lists made public so far, national parliamentarian Siyabonga Cwele and speaker in the provincial legislature Willies Mchunu are front-runners for the deputy chair. But there are suggestions that influential former eThekwini regional chairperson Bheki Cele will be nominated from the floor of the conference.
Cele suffered a setback earlier this year after, surprisingly, failing to be elected to a leadership position in the eThekwini region. But there is support for Cele, the provincial minister for transport, safety and security, from other quarters in the party.
Both the ANC Youth League and the ANC Women’s League confirmed this week that they had been lobbied by Cele supporters.
The chair of the ANC’s Bhambatha region told a weekend newspaper that the party couldn’t “discard” Cele and that his region would “need to take the lobbying of these comrades seriously”.
Political analyst Proteas Madlala said:“Cele is a shrewd politician with popular appeal among the ANC rank and file. His call last week to have charges against Zuma dropped was also timed well.”
Cele himself declined to comment on any lobbying by his supporters, but agreed that nominations from the floor was a “process that we are allowed in the party after which I can decide whether to accept or not”. Cele would need 25% support from the 1 004 voting delegates expected to attend the conference to get his name onto the ballot paper.
Favourites for other positions reflect the province’s pro-Zuma sentiment: current encumbent Senzo Mchunu is expected to fight it out for the position of secretary with former ANCYL secretary Sihle Zikalala. Both have strong links to the Zunami.
The position of treasurer sees provincial health minister Peggy Nkonyeni competing with former United Democratic Front (UDF) activist and businesswoman Sizani Dlamini. Dlamini has strong links to both Zuma and his former wife, foreign minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former chair of KZN’s ANCYL.