Former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters in the ANC will take their battle to win back control of the party to a series of regional and provincial conferences next month.
They are also likely to use the backlash caused by the issuing of a warrant of arrest against Zuma for failing to appear in court last month to mobilise for pro-Zuma slates at the conferences.
Zuma’s return from Cuba, where he had been seeking medical attention for an undisclosed condition, was marked by a show of strength by his supporters, who have undertaken to continue mobilising in his defence when his corruption case goes back to court in May.
The 17 elective conferences in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West and other provinces are scheduled to take place ahead of the crucial mid-term national general council (NGC) meeting at the end of July.
Winning the conferences will be a major boost for the Zuma camp, which lost ground in the provinces after the national elective conference at Nasrec in December 2017.
Although the NGC is not an elective meeting, Zuma’s supporters, who have since Nasrec rallied behind secretary general Ace Magashule, are expected to challenge president Cyril Ramaphosa and his camp, using failure to implement resolutions of the 2017 conference.
It will also allow them to test the waters ahead of the party’s next national conference in 2022, at which the opportunity will arise to field a candidate to challenge Ramaphosa’s bid for a second term as ANC president.
In Mpumalanga, the eHlanzeni region, whose executive committee was disbanded last year by the provincial task team running the party in the province, is set to elect a new leadership, as is the province itself.
The movement of David Mabuza, the longstanding former provincial ANC chairperson, to the deputy presidency after Nasrec created the need for a fresh provincial election.
The acting chairperson, former secretary Mandla Ndlovu, had been backed by Mabuza as his successor, but shifting allegiances in the party have resulted in Mabuza now backing the premier, Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane, as the next chair.
Ndlovu is now being backed by Magashule’s faction to stand as chairperson, on a slate that includes Lindiwe Ntshalintshali as deputy secretary, Speedy Mashilo as secretary and Musi Chirwa as secretary.
This weekend branches in the province, which is influential in the ANC, begin holding their branch general meetings at which conference delegates will be elected.
Previous conferences have been marred by allegations of membership fraud, which resulted in the collapse of the eHlanzeni and Bohlabela regions after a national executive committee task team discovered ghost memberships and cloned branches.
The party hopes its new electronic membership system, set to be unveiled this weekend, which allows members to register online with Luthuli House, will prevent gatekeeping and membership fraud ahead of the conferences.
In KwaZulu-Natal, where the provincial executive committee (PEC) elected after Nasrec is aligned with Ramaphosa, the Zuma/Magashule camp will field candidates to contest all five regions in elections set to be held before the end of April.
In eThekwini, the largest and most influential region, ousted mayor and chairperson Zandile Gumede is to lead the Zuma/Magashule camp fightback and stand again as chairperson, despite being out on bail on corruption and fraud charges.
She will head a slate consisting of ANC Youth League eThekwini leader Thembo Ntuli as her deputy; councillor Musa Nciki as secretary, Nkosenhle Madlala as deputy secretary and Nomthandazo Shabalala as treasurer.
Gumede’s former ally and current regional secretary, Bheki Ntuli, is expected to stand as secretary on a slate headed by Durban councillor Thabani Nyawose, who had led the pro-Ramaphosa lobby in the region ahead of the Nasrec conference.
In the Moses Mabhida region, a stronghold for the Zuma camp, former education MEC and regional chairperson Mthandeni Dlungwane will lead its slate for the conference, the go ahead for which was given by Magashule’s office last week after a delay caused by disputes over membership figures.
Dlungwane will stand as chairperson against Ramaphosa supporter Thulani Xulu, who is the co-ordinator of the regional task team that has been running the region for the past 18 months. Richmond councillor Samora Ndlovu will stand as secretary.
A Zuma supporter on the PEC, who asked not to be named, said they would also field slates in the Lower South Coast, General Gizenga Mpanza and Josiah Gumede regions, all of which will still hold conferences.
In North West the provincial conference is likely to be held before those of the Ruth Mompati and Modiri Molema regions, both of which were collapsed by the interim provincial leadership team appointed by the national executive committee last year.
Luthuli House had suspended the serving North West leadership, led by chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, but was forced to seek a political solution and appoint the interim team after Mahumapelo twice won high court applications setting aside the suspension of the PEC.
Sources in the province said that regions had been informed of their suspension last weekend by co-ordinator Hlomane Chauke, sparking a backlash that is likely to end up in court action by the suspended regional executive council (REC).
In a letter to Chauke, Mahumapelo and Magashule, lawyers for regional secretary Boy Noko said the decision had been irrational and unlawful because the interim committee did not have the powers to suspend a regional structure.
They gave Chauke until Friday morning to rescind the decision, failing which they would go back to the high court to seek an interdict and an order enforcing the earlier court decisions in favour of the PEC led by Mahumapelo.
Noko has also filed an appeal with the ANC’s internal appeal structure, asking that the decision be set aside. In it, he claims that the interim leadership took the decision hastily and in violation of its mandate and accused Chauke of harassing his REC for political reasons.
Chauke and ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe had not responded to requests for comment from the Mail & Guardian at the time of publication.