Indians could split with Terror

The African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal is becoming increasingly concerned that the breakaway party proposed by its suspended former chairperson, Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota, may take with it disaffected activists, especially those from minority race groups.

This emerged at a minority forum meeting for ANC activists in Chatsworth on Wednesday, where one member said the leadership appeared “terrified” that long disillusioned Indian activists may find an alternative home with the proposed new party.

“A lot of Indian activists are no longer active within party structures because they’re disillusioned. While we’re adopting a wait-and-see approach, there are issues which have not really been addressed by the ANC. This could work against the party because activists who, out of conscience, would not have voted for any other party, may now vote for Terror,” said the activist, who spoke to the Mail & Guardian on condition of anonymity.

“They are terrified of Terror’s party making inroads because people feel the ANC has not prioritised service delivery in these areas and the perception that the ANC remembers the ‘Indian vote’ only at election time.
There are also issues which go to the very heart of calling the ANC your political home.”

The activist said there were long-standing issues raised at the meeting that the ANC had recognised, but failed to address. Among these was the perception that the ANC had compromised its non-racial credentials by going into a partnership with former “apartheid stooge and tricameral parliament member” Amichand Rajbansi’s Minority Front (MF) party in provincial government.

Another was the elevation of “opportunists” within the party’s ranks in the Chatsworth zone, to the detriment of long-standing members with a history in the UDF and ANC and of the party’s profile in the community. It is understood that this was an unsubtle attack on former MF and Democratic Alliance local government councillor Visvin Reddy’s rise within the ANC.

There is a perception among disgruntled ANC members that Reddy’s elevation was encouraged to swell the numbers of eThekwini region’s voting delegates at the national conference in Polokwane last year.

The IWC (Indian, white and coloured) forum was addressed by ANC provincial deputy chairperson Willies Mchunu and provincial executive committee member Yusuf Bhamjee, who is charged with overseeing the forums. Bhamjee could not be reached for comment, but there are several more forums planned for this month in “coloured”, “white” and “Indian” areas such as Wentworth, Morningside and Phoenix.

The activist said Mchunu had made it clear at the meeting that anyone who wanted to join the new party was free to do so, but that the use of ANC structures and finances would not be tolerated.

According to the activist, Mchunu addressed the issue of Rajbansi by “admitting that the leadership had made a mistake which would be corrected after next year’s election”.

Speaking to the M&G, Mchunu said the provincial leadership had not held discussions about disaffected minorities possibly finding a new home with the proposed new party but was rather “speaking about ourselves and the election we have to win next year”.

‘That is who I will vote for’
Another veteran said Zuma’s people “appear to have forgotten that Terror was the first interim chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. He campaigned and worked extensively in [former Indian] areas like Phoenix and Chatsworth where he gave people their dues and was well respected.”

“If this ANC breakaway hadn’t happened people wouldn’t have voted in next year’s election. I wouldn’t have voted. If they get this party together, that is who I will vote for,” said the activist.

“These meetings wouldn’t have happened with such regularity if the leadership were not concerned about the breakaway. Zuma has been getting bad advice from his ideologues like [Zwelinzima] Vavi and Blade [Nzimande]: damage control should have started months ago.”

The ANC has been concerned about the Indian vote in KwaZulu-Natal, which, in the past, has been seduced by the DA and the MF. Earlier this year it had set up a task team, including eThekwini deputy mayor Logie Naidoo and local council speaker Fawzia Peer, to examine ways of winning over the Indian vote.

It was reported that a document compiled by the task team recommended, among other things, that service delivery away from “patronage” be prioritised for Indian areas.

There was also discussion about resurrecting the Natal Indian Congress in an attempt to garner more of the Indian vote. The idea was eventually shot down.

Political commentator Ashwin Desai said the ANC would find itself in a predicament in the run-up to next year’s election because the party had “not settled on a proper strategy to approach minority groups”.

He said that former struggle activists were disenchanted because they were continuously being “approached as Indians rather than as South Africans - which is what they fought for”.

Veteran civil rights campaigner Fatima Meer painted an even bleaker picture, saying she felt it was “not merely the minorities who are disenchanted, the entire electorate feels that there is nothing worth voting for”.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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