KZN ‘unity’ slate on shaky ground

Unity: Sihle Zikalala says the ANC elective conference in KwaZulu-Natal will go ahead despite threats of court action. (Delwyn Verasamy)

Unity: Sihle Zikalala says the ANC elective conference in KwaZulu-Natal will go ahead despite threats of court action. (Delwyn Verasamy)

As final preparations go ahead for KwaZulu-Natal’s long-awaited ANC provincial conference, aggrieved branches have been preparing to go to court to try to have the elective meeting halted.

Although discussions are under way between the two factions in the province to field a unity slate to end the tensions — and political killings — in KwaZulu-Natal, the fragile talks may be scuppered by the court challenge.

At the time of writing on Thursday, the group of branches from Moses Mabhida, Lower South Coast, Harry Gwala and other regions had already briefed counsel to go to court to stop the meeting, a rerun of the November 2015 conference, the result of which was set aside by the Pietermaritzburg High Court last September. “We will hopefully be able to serve papers by Friday morning in time to stop the conference from going ahead,” said one of the branch members, who asked to remain anonymous.

The threat of court action was not averted by the attempt on Wednesday afternoon by members of the provincial task team, appointed to oversee the conference rerun, and the national executive committee (NEC) deployees to convince members of 44 branches from the Moses Mabhida region that the process was legitimate. “We have taken a decision to try and halt the process now, rather than questioning the outcome based on a fraudulent process.
We are racing to get ready in time,’’ he said.

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At a media briefing in Durban on Thursday, task team convener Mike Mabuyakhulu and co-ordinator Sihle Zikalala said the conference would go ahead as planned at the University of Zululand at Richards Bay.

Both declined to comment on the unity slate, which contains erstwhile adversaries Zikalala as chairperson and Mabuyakhulu as his deputy. Former provincial spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli has been proposed as secretary. MPL Nhlakanipho Ntombela and Sithembiso Mshengu, spokesperson for the branches that took Zikalala’s provincial executive committee to court, have been proposed for deputy secretary. Possible candidates for treasurer are co-operative governance MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube and former sports MEC Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha.

However, both the Zikalala-led grouping, which had backed the unsuccessful presidential bid by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in December, and the group backing Mabuyakhulu, which lined up behind President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC’s 54th elective conference, are battling to convince their hardline supporters to buy the compromise package.

“We are not happy with this idea of consensus with corruption,” said one Mabuyakhulu supporter. “We are giving credibility to the wrong forces and are allowing them to consolidate, rather than getting rid of corrupting elements.”

Mbulelo Dlamini, a representative of the 44 dissatisfied Moses Mabhida branches, said that, should any of the region’s nearly 90 branches be allowed to participate, they would go to court to have the conference result set aside and a rerun ordered: “We met with the NEC on Wednesday, but they made it clear that the Moses Mabhida branches would be allowed to attend, despite there being such a fraudulent process. This fraudulent delegation is large enough to influence the outcome so this matter will definitely end up in court.”

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Zikalala said all the branches that raised issues were “given a fair chance to raise their concerns … We are happy that we have surpassed the 70% threshold to hold the conference.” He said 686 branches had qualified, and the three regions that had been suspended would send non-voting delegates. But branches from those regions that had passed muster would be allowed to attend.

Zikalala and Mabuyakhulu declined to comment on the unity slate.

NEC deployee Nocawe Mafu said she was “quite satisfied” with the integrity of the conference preparations, adding that the ANC had not received notice from any branches or members of an intention to go to court to stop the conference. “We don’t have anything in writing. If it does happen the ANC will deal with it in the normal manner,” Mafu said.

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