Optometrist with an eye for justice wins KZN battle

ANC councillor Lawrence Dube celebrates the court ruling that the KwaZulu-Natal elective conference was unlawful. (Rogan Ward/M&G)

ANC councillor Lawrence Dube celebrates the court ruling that the KwaZulu-Natal elective conference was unlawful. (Rogan Ward/M&G)

A soft-spoken Vryheid optometrist is an unlikely David versus the Goliath big guns of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal.

But “being fed up” with the gatekeeping in the governing party and the manipulation of its elective processes in the province propelled Lawrence Dube into this role.

Dube (45), Ward 22 councillor for the Abaqulusi Municipality in Zululand, brought the application along with ANC members Sibahle Zikalala‚ Martin Mzangwa‚ Mzweni Ngcobo and Lindiwe Buthelezi. The group, supporters of ousted ANC chairperson Senzo Mchunu, said the conference and run-up process were rigged in favour of his opponent, Sihle Zikalala.

“I’ve been an activist and involved in the ANC from way back. I got fed up with the way things are being run in the ANC here.
We witnessed about four conferences where wrong things were done. That’s why I decided to get involved in this case,” he said on Thursday.

Dube, who is serving his first term as councillor, is understood to be the ANC’s mayoral candidate should they win a by-election at Abaqulusi in October. A win by the ANC will shift the balance of forces in the town, currently run by coalition of the Inkatha Freedom Party, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Born in Daveyton on the East Rand, Dube first became politically active in the Congress of South African Students while still at school. He studied at the former University of the North, where he was a member of the student representative council, serving alongside the current Gauteng premier, David Makhura.

After qualifying as an optometrist, Dube moved to Heidelberg, where he became involved in the ANC. He was a founding member of the Lebo Ngubane branch and eventually became its chairperson.

Dube moved to KwaZulu-Natal to work in Vryheid and continued with his political involvement, transferring his membership to the ANC Ward 22 branch. He was brought on to the branch executive committee as an additional member, becoming treasurer and chairperson in subsequent branch elections.

It was from this position that he became an influential figure in the campaign to re-elect Mchunu in 2015, with Abaqulusi declaring its support for his candidature as chairperson ahead of the elective conference. The Pietermaritzburg high court ruled on Tuesday that the conference was unlawful.

Dube withdrew from the opto-metry practice he was involved in after becoming involved “full-time” in the court case.

Dube, who is married and has children, said he believed the provincial executive committee (PEC) needed to step down immediately.

“For now I can’t say more than that. The PEC should step down. The only thing I’m expecting from the NEC [national executive committee] is that they should disband them and put in place a provincial task team. That would be a just action on the part of the NEC,” he said.

Dube and his fellow applicants have refused to comment on who funded their application, half the costs of which will have to be paid by the PEC in terms of the court ruling.

Dube seems unruffled by the effect of the court ruling and the potential of threats to his life for taking on the party leadership in the province.

“I’m not scared of anything. I don’t have any bodyguard. God is my bodyguard,” he said.

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