/ 16 May 2023

ANC to intervene in Gauteng, KZN to boost 2024 poll strength

Anc Elective Conference Del 10
the ANC in Gauteng is again at loggerheads with its national leadership following the Democratic Alliance’s exclusion from the newly minted provincial cabinet announced by Premier Panyaza Lesufi on Wednesday. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The ANC’s national working committee (NWC) will beef up its organisational muscle in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in coming weeks to address weaknesses in both provinces, which are central to its hopes of salvaging a majority in next year’s elections.

While the party’s top leadership has no intention of dissolving either of the provincial executive committees (PECs), it will intervene by deploying additional members of the national executive committee (NEC) to the provinces, along with more resources from the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters in Johannesburg.

The party’s top leaders spent the past weekend in KwaZulu-Natal — where the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has been making a comeback since 2019 — and are set to meet the Gauteng PEC next.

Some ANC branches and regions in KwaZulu-Natal had lobbied the NWC to disband the PEC, elected last July, over the national school nutrition programme debacle last month and political setbacks in a series of by-elections.

Addressing a media briefing in Durban on Monday, ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula said the leaders would be returning to KwaZulu-Natal in two weeks to assess progress by the PEC in addressing issues raised by the NWC.

“We will deploy a team of NEC members to work with the province to prepare for next year’s election campaign,” Mbalula said. “In the next two weeks we will meet with the PEC to look at what they have done with regard to the things we have told them to do, including governance in eThekwini.”

A PEC member who spoke to the Mail & Guardian on condition of anonymity said the NWC had been clear that it had no intention of disbanding the committee but wanted to ensure that the province delivered in the national and provincial elections.

“The top seven kept saying that they were not here to disband anybody and that they were going to Gauteng next. The SG [secretary general] was saying there was mobilisation around disbandment by some of the comrades, that they were asking for the disbandment of the PEC,” the PEC member said.

“There will be intervention. The NWC said that KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are their hopes for going into the elections, for voter turnout and gains. They are going to be very close to us and will be helping us by deploying people to assist going forward into the elections.”

Mbalula said while there was “objective evidence that we have made significant gains in the provinces”, a “lot more needs to be done”.

He said the “numerous challenges” faced by the ANC in the province — including the failure of water provision and the school feeding debacle — were “not insurmountable”. 

The NWC had taken an “unequivocal position” that “consequences must be effected without delay” over the school feeding saga, which was “a matter of serious concern”.

In December, the education department awarded Pacina Retail a R2.1 billion tender to provide food to more than 5 000 schools falling under the national school nutrition programme.

However, in April they failed to do so and the feeding scheme collapsed in many areas, leaving learners hungry and forcing the department to take over food delivery.

In their meeting with the NWC, the KwaZulu-Natal PEC had argued that education MEC Mbali Fraser should not be fired and that responsibility should be shared by the provincial government as a whole.

Mbalula said the NWC expected the provincial government to “have a very low threshold for incompetence” and to act both to enforce consequences and ensure that the feeding scheme was not disrupted again.

“This programme affects millions of children from working-class communities and, as such, we expect the relevant officials to be meticulous in their planning processes but moreover we expect very thorough political oversight on programmes of this nature.”

Mbalula also expressed concern over the political instability in the province, the poor service delivery and the inability to address audit findings at municipal level, where performance and audit outcomes were among the worst in the country.

eThekwini, the province’s only metro council, is the subject of a Section 154 treasury intervention as a result of poor performance, the inability to make use of national funding and an impasse within its administration.

Politically, the ANC region is not functioning, in part because of the implementation of the step aside rule against its chairperson Zandile Gumede and treasurer Zoe Shabalala, both of whom are facing corruption charges.

Mbalula said the political leadership must resolve this instability “by all means necessary”.

The NWC will spend the next two weeks discussing the reports it has received from the ANC structures and conduct a follow-up visit to address the “substantial challenges” the party faced in the province, he said.