The ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal regional and provincial conferences have been postponed following claims of a plot to “recapture” the governing party by supporters in the province of former president Jacob Zuma.
The request to the party’s national working committee (NWC) by convener Mike Mabuyakhulu came a day after video footage emerged of armed bodyguards of provincial leaders loyal to Zuma preventing ANC members from attending a consultative meeting in Howick in the party’s Moses Mabhida region.
Mabuyakhulu, whose provincial interim committee’s three-month term is about to expire, told the Mail & Guardian that, although the committee had not requested an indefinite postponement until after the national elections in 2019, this might be the outcome of the assessment carried out by the NWC.
Mabuyakhulu and co-ordinator Sihle Zikalala have downplayed the claims of a plan to mobilise against ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa from a platform created by Zikalala’s election as KwaZulu-Natal chairperson. Zikalala’s faction backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the ANC presidency, whereas Mabuykhulu’s supported Ramaphosa.
“The NEC [national executive committee] at its last meeting took a decision that the assessment whether provincial and regional conferences should go ahead would be taken by the national officials and the NWC. They now need to make that assessment on a case-by-case basis,” Mabuyakhulu said. “Until that assessment takes place, we cannot go ahead.”
Eleven regional conferences and a provincial one were needed in KwaZulu-Natal alone. Mabuyakhulu said further delays in auditing membership and holding branch general meetings meant the earliest they could hold regional conferences was in May. The provincial conference could take place by the end of that month, but only if cleared by the assessment team.
“Once we have heard from them as to whether we continue or have further postponements until after elections, then we can talk about indefinite postponements,” he said.
Mabuyakhulu condemned the Howick incident, as did Zikalala, and said an internal ANC investigation and a police investigation of a bodyguard discharging a firearm would take place.
He said no ANC structure in the province had expressed a “difficulty in supporting the sitting ANC leadership”. It would be “unfortunate” if “individuals” in the ANC had “expressed the sentiments we hear were being expressed” at Zuma’s court appearance last Friday.
Zuma supporters defied the ANC leadership by wearing party colours and carried placards denouncing Ramaphosa and blaming him for a conspiracy against Zuma.
Mabuyakhulu said the ANC leadership “should be able to call them to account” if it was proved that those who verbally attacked Ramaphosa outside the court were ANC members. “The president made it clear that anyone causing division would be called to Luthuli House to account. If there is prima facie evidence of misbehaviour by identifiable individuals who could be called to account then we think it is important to do so,” Mabuyakhulu said. “As the ANC, we are busy trying to form meaningful unity in the ANC and with our allies. Any behaviour that runs contrary to that should worry us.”
Zikalala said the claim of a plan to unseat Ramaphosa by Zuma’s supporters in the province was “hogwash”.
“Some people have manufactured this. This is meant to create doubt among us and to label others among us as bad,” he said.
He said the Howick incident“should never have happened”.
If Zuma’s supporters wanted to put on a show of strength when he appeared in the high court in Durban last Friday, they failed, drawing far fewer than the crowd of 10 000 people that organisers, including Bishop Vusi Dube, an ANC KwaZulu-Natal member of the provincial legislature, had hoped to mobilise. A coalition of religious groups led by Dube, Black First Land First and local business forums marched in support of Zuma, while the faction of the ANC leadership in the province still loyal to him joined the former president in court.
Dube, who did not respond to calls from M&G this week, had questioned the NEC’s decision to prohibit the wearing of ANC T-shirts and colours at the court appearance.
Political analyst Lukhona Mnguni said the anti-Ramaphosa stance of the Zikalala-led faction was in line with the position pushed by ANC secretary general Ace Magashule in Pietermaritzburg in January that those who lost out at the ANC’s elective conference in December should mobilise for the next five years.
“The faction wants to continue sustaining its posture that it is anti the emergence of Ramaphosa to continue to give hope to the forces it wants to marshall in the province, to give them hope that they have another chance,” Mnguni said.
Referring to rumours that a Zikalala win would pave the way for the province to call for an early national general council (NGC) to oust Ramaphosa, Mnguni said: “The narrative is about keeping the faction together. They are not worried about an early NGC. They are worried about the provincial conference. The faction needs to keep itself together.”
Winning the provincial conference would give the Zikalala faction continued powers of patronage, a way to continue supporting Zuma and a basis for the province to try to re-establish itself in the ANC nationally, he said.