‘Bring Zuma back in from the cold’

The ANC’s new KwaZulu-Natal leadership wants former presidents Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki to campaign for the governing party ahead of next year’s national and provincial elections.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian this week, newly elected provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal wanted the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to reconsider its decision to distance the party from Zuma’s court appearances.

Ntuli, who was elected on the “unity”’ slate at the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal conference, defeating incumbent Super Zuma, said the conference outcome gave the party a solid base ahead of next year’s elections.

The former deputy chief whip in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature was part of the same leadership contingent elected with Super Zuma at the November 2015 elective conference, which was declared unlawful by the high court in Pietermaritzburg last September.

Seen by the applicants in the case — supporters of former premier and provincial chairperson Senzo Mchunu — as the most acceptable of the opposing camp’s leaders, Ntuli became an obvious choice to take over as provincial secretary. This was partly as a result of the work he did as a member of the provincial task team entrusted with running the new conference.

“One of the things we have attained at this conference is that we are united. Nobody is going to be standing outside, waiting to go to court. Nobody is not going to campaign because they are not happy with the results,” he said.

Members of the current and past provincial executive committees would all be campaigning for the ANC ahead of the polls, Ntuli said.

“We will be getting Cyril Ramaphosa and the NEC in and out of the province. We are the biggest province of the ANC [in terms of membership] and we have to live up to that responsibility,” he said.

“Nobody will be sitting anywhere else, plotting anything other than the programme, from Bheki Cele to Senzo Mchunu to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma … all facing in one direction,” Ntuli said.

Apart from putting pressure on the NEC to revisit its decision on Zuma, the KwaZulu-Natal ANC structure also resolved to “encourage and allow the former president to actively participate in the activities and life of the ANC, like any other former leaders and members of the ANC”.

“We want every ANC member to work for this election campaign … every comrade becomes important … former president Zuma, former president Mbeki, comrade S’bu Ndebele [the former KwaZulu-Natal premier]; every comrade who can make a contribution should do so,’’ Ntuli said.

He said he and provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala would discuss the issues around Zuma with ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and secretary general Ace Magashule at the NEC lekgotla over the weekend, ahead of a formal report being tabled.

The province, he said, respected the NEC’s decision on Zuma but believed it should reconsider it to prevent the situation where other parties took centre stage at his court appearances because ANC leaders were not there in an official capacity.

He was not sure whether he would attend Zuma’s court appearance on Friday in the Pietermaritzburg high court on corruption, fraud and racketeering charges but said ANC provincial leaders would be there.

Ntuli said there had been no discussion about a provincial Cabinet reshuffle, which he believed would be a mistake in the run-up to the elections. “We must overcome what has become the dominant narrative that if you are not in the provincial executive committee, you cannot serve in the executive [Cabinet].”

Referring to the reshuffle after the November 2015 conference, Ntuli said they may have “acted in a way that enforced the perception that said if a comrade is not elected, they are not there [in the Cabinet]”.

Ntuli said the first full provincial executive committee meeting would take place on Saturday, at which a working committee would be elected and other committees appointed.

The next 60 days, he said, would be spent working with the branches that had taken the ANC to court in a bid to address their grievances in terms of the out-of-court settlement reached with them. Branch meetings would have to be rerun, and members excluded from branches in the eThekwini region would have to be reintegrated.

The new leaders were also talking to ANC members who had stood as independent candidates in 2016 to bring them back to the party, he said.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
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