President Jacob Zuma will have a difficult time choosing KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize’s replacement.
Mkhize announced his resignation on Thursday. He will now take on his full-time position as ANC treasurer.
The ANC provincial executive committee will decide on three names for the top government position in the province.
Most ANC members in the province prefer ANC provincial chairperson and education MEC Senzo Mchunu, but Zuma is said to be in favour of Willies Mchunu, who lost the provincial chairmanship to Senzo Mchunu at the recent provincial general council.
Senzo Mchunu was sworn in as acting premier on August 22 in Durban.
Senzo Mchunu has never come out publicly against the ANC president, but those close to him described him as an independent-minded politician who could not easily be controlled by Zuma and his allies.
Attempts by Zuma’s supporters before the provincial general council to persuade Senzo Mchunu not to contest Willies Mchunu for the position of ANC chair failed.
Zuma and his allies in the province seem to be uncomfortable with the perception that Senzo Mchunu was close to former human settlements minister and business tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, as well as former police commissioner and ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Bheki Cele.
Senzo Mchunu’s supporters believe that, as ANC chair, he should replace Mkhize because this would help the ANC’s election machinery in KwaZulu-Natal to achieve a decisive majority during the 2014 general elections.
After Senzo Mchunu’s victory as ANC provincial chairperson, the anti-Zuma faction in the ANC said his elevation was a positive step towards tilting the balance of forces within the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and nationally towards them.
“This victory has serious implications for 2017 [ANC elective conference] and the unity and cohesion of KwaZulu-Natal towards the ANC national conference and the future role of Zweli [Mkhize] and the diminishing influence of Zuma,” a senior member of the anti-Zuma faction in the province said.
“This victory of Senzo’s and the potential it represents will be remembered in historical terms as the defining moment or breakthrough in the arrest of the manipulative, toxic influence of the Zuma coterie, which has amassed unfettered power in the looting of the public purse and corrupting organisational processes in the ANC.”
ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala praised Mkhize’s leadership and wished him well in his full-time position as ANC treasurer.
“Under Mkhize’s stewardship, our province implemented measures to ensure that KwaZulu-Natal does not fall into financial doldrums,” he said.
“Since the beginning of his term of office, he ensured that KwaZulu-Natal paid [off] an overdraft of R3-billion,” said Zikalala.
“It is worth noting that KwaZulu-Natal has on several occasions been praised by the auditor general, Terence Nombembe, for major improvements in managing public funds.”
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said Mkhize’s resignation was correct in terms of the ANC’s constitution, which stipulates that, as treasurer, the elected person should work full-time at Luthuli House.
“Between December 2012 and now, Zweli has had to juggle two positions, each with immense responsibilities, undoubtedly placing a strain on him as an individual,” said Mthembu.
“His recent resignation will afford him ample time and opportunity to concentrate on his functions and tasks as treasurer of the ANC.”