President Jacob Zuma’s supporters have warned Mpumalanga ANC chairperson and Premier David Mabuza that he may find himself behind bars if he does not publicly declare his support for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the next ANC president.
Mabuza was once a key member of the “premier league” — premiers from Mpumalanga, the North West and Free State — that is staunchly behind Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma, a former minister and African Union Commission chairperson.
Regarded as the kingmaker for the ANC elective conference in December, Mabuza took many by surprise at the party’s recent policy conference with suggestions that he may have abandoned the Zuma faction.
ANC insiders told the Mail & Guardian this week that Mabuza had confided in his close comrades ahead of last month’s provincial general council about the warnings.
“He told us that the old man [Zuma] wants us [Mpumalanga] to publicly pronounce our position on the leadership issue, or else he [Mabuza] would be arrested,” said a senior ANC leader, who preferred to remain anonymous.
In 2010, the Barberton police said a case had been opened relating to R4‑million that went missing from a farm owned by Mabuza. He has also been accused of being behind the murders of politicians and whistle-blowers in the province.
But he has dismissed the claims as being a concerted effort by his political rivals in the ANC to tarnish his name.
An ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) member told the M&G this week that Mabuza was not shaken by the threats to arrest him and has objected to the instruction to declare his support for Dlamini-Zuma publicly.
Insiders said the provincial general council had been poised to pronounce on Dlamini-Zuma, but had not done so because of Mabuza’s stance.
The source said Mabuza told a PEC meeting a month before the provincial general council that Dlamini-Zuma would cost the ANC in the 2019 elections if she is elected ANC president in December.
“This matter was discussed in the last PEC [meeting]. The majority of PEC members were pushing the NDZ [Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma] line. DD [Mabuza] refused … He was saying the NDZ thing is not going to work.
“He [Mabuza] said if this [election of Dlamini-Zuma] happens, the ANC will lose elections in 2019. He told us NDZ is not a winning candidate for the ANC in the country. If she wins the national conference, the ANC won’t be able to muster [enough] support in 2019 national elections.
“He [Mabuza] was just making a political input. After this, he said if we [PEC members] want NDZ, we can proceed, but should not count him,” said the PEC member.
He said last month’s provincial general council was organised like a rally. “They [the PEC members supporting Dlamini-Zuma] wanted to pronounce [her as their preferred candidate] and celebrate. They invited artists; they slaughtered cows. According to them, it was supposed to be a celebration for NDZ and for him [Mabuza] because he was leaving the province to become the deputy president,” said the PEC member, who asked not to be named.
ANC insiders claimed the real reason Mabuza was reluctant to be associated with the Dlamini-Zuma faction was because of how she had treated his friend, Mpumalanga tycoon Robert Gumede.
In 2010, during Dlamini-Zuma’s term as home affairs minister, the department cancelled a multibillion-rand tender with Gumede’s information technology company Gijima, which had been contracted to overhaul home affairs infrastructure.
The company allegedly failed to deliver an integrated electronic database to improve security and speed up previously manual application processes. The tender, which was originally awarded at R1.9‑billion, saw costs escalate to R4.5‑billion over five years.
The ANC Youth League and the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association want Mabuza as Dlamini-Zuma’s deputy. But he has made it clear he will not associate himself with any slate that will deepen divisions in the party.
During the recent ANC policy conference, Mabuza told reporters he was “gatvol” with factional politics in the ANC.
“Factionalism is one thing that visited the ANC and I once participated in a faction,” he said. “Remember when we went to Polokwane? We were in factions. When we went to Mangaung, we were in factions. And that has left the ANC more and more poor. So we want to do away with it.”
The ANC’s Mpumalanga secretary, Mandla Ndlovu, said Mabuza hadn’t told him about the threats of arrest but he would be shocked if they were carried out.
“If I don’t want comrade Dlamini-Zuma, I have that right to say so. No one can arrest me. We fought for this democracy. The day that will happen, it will be the end of history. If that can happen, it means others will have to go to the bush to fight for freedom again. Even the premier can’t arrest the regional chairperson. As members of the ANC, we must be cautious,” said Ndlovu.
He said the province would do everything it could to unite the ANC ahead of the 2019 elections.
“We want the organisation to be united after 2019. We must nurse the [political] situation. We will not be comfortable with another breakaway, as it will weaken the ANC,” he said.
“All our members are expected to disassociate from slates. Genuine ANC members would not want
to associate with slates if we acknowledge it has killed the ANC,” said Ndlovu.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga ANC leaders are scheduled to meet in Nelspruit on Monday for a joint extended provincial working committee (PWC) meeting — a move that is seen as an attempt by KwaZulu-Natal to persuade Mpumalanga to throw its weight behind Dlamini-Zuma.
The ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal secretary, Super Zuma, told the M&G that the agenda for the meeting was still being finalised but that it would deal with policy proposals emanating from the ANC policy conference and “other issues”.
“This is not the first time that we are meeting as the PWCs of the provinces … We will be clearing up issues where we differ and consolidating on issues where we are in agreement,” Zuma said.
Asked whether the meeting would be used to bring Mabuza into line on the presidential candidate issue, Zuma said neither province had named a preferred candidate as yet.
“As KwaZulu-Natal, we have never had a problem with Mpumalanga. We have been having discussions with them for years and have been able to find each other on many issues. I do not believe that we will be unable to find each other now,” Zuma said.
He said he did not know whether Mabuza would attend the meeting but that, as a PEC member, he was “expected” to be there. Zuma declined to comment on whether they were concerned about Mabuza’s failure to back Dlamini-Zuma as a presidential candidate. “The agenda is still to be finalised. Let us not speculate at this stage,” he said.
An ANC PEC member in KwaZulu-Natal, who asked not to be named, said the meeting was aimed at consolidating support for Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign. “This is all about NDZ’s campaign and keeping it alive,” he said.