South Africa

KZN: ANC struggles to present a picture of unity

By Cyril Madlala 29 July 2016

A group of ANC leaders in KwaZulu-Natal is taking their party to court to have the results of the November provincial conference nullified, challenging the authority of the entire provincial leadership. What does this mean for the party days before the elections and for those in the losing faction who have been kicked to the curb? By CYRIL MADLALA.

On Sunday the African National Congress in KwaZulu-Natal will once again stage a spectacular show of strength ahead of Wednesday’s local government elections when it hosts the Siyanqoba rally at the massive Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

At the rally, the ANC will project an image of a united force assured of victory. But the façade of great bravado will only serve to mask temporarily the anxiety over the potential wages of the sins of factionalism and the isolation of those who voted with the losers in the provincial conference last November.

Ordinarily, the passage of time heals broken hearts.

Or perhaps the August elections loomed too soon for those who supported former chairman and premier Senzo Mchunu to have had enough time to get over their loss and campaign vigorously for victory for the ANC.

Whether the current leadership admits it or not, events subsequent to the conference point to an organisation that is not only yet to heal the rifts, but is on a trajectory that leaves a lot of room for uncertainty about the choices that ordinary, non card-carrying ANC supporters will make when they are all alone in the ballot cubicle on Wednesday.

While the ANC can reasonably and fairly accurately work out how its members and their immediate constituents will vote, the reality is that the vast majority of those who vote for the party are not members.

For many, voting for the ANC is simply the right thing to do because it delivered liberation. On the ground, in every local municipality, life in KwaZulu-Natal in 2016 is indeed way better than it was before freedom.

At provincial government level, Mchunu appeared to be steering the ship steadily in the direction he wanted and there was certainly no sense that a rescue operation for a government in distress was called for not even half-way through his five-year tenure.

That will be the first challenge for the ANC at the ballot box on Wednesday.

Many of those who are not at the coalface of ANC provincial politics, even in opposition parties, agree that his party treated Mchunu shabbily.

Stability of government had been a hallmark of ANC rule in the province, a far cry from the days of IFP supremacy when premiers and members of the executive council were hired and fired regularly.

The question has then been: What sin has been committed by Mchunu to earn this badge of dishonour?

The fact that he has since been conspicuous by his absence in high-profile campaigns for his party in the build-up to the elections has sent an unambiguous message that the façade of unity in the party is just that.

Those aligned to his supporters will think twice about voting for a party that has treated one of its own so unkindly.

Second, the process to select ANC candidates for the elections has been fraught with challenges across the country, and KwaZulu-Natal is no exception.

Unfortunately, what ordinarily could have just been an internal matter for the party to drive has spun out of control. The result is a slew of ANC members standing as independent candidates and a number of murders suspected to be linked with these nominations.

The provincial ANC has been firm: Members opting to stand as independents no longer belong to the organisation, they have dismissed themselves.

As those millions of voters wait to make their marks on the ballot paper, the ANC will wonder how many think the process to nominate their ANC councillors was flawed.

How many might be thinking of teaching the organisation a lesson for the future? Even if it is just this once, in order to send a message that by the time the next national elections come, support cannot always be taken for granted by the liberation movement.

What is clear for now is that the ANC does not have much time for dissidents.

That is also pretty much the message to those running to the Pietermaritzburg High Court this week, seeking an order nullifying the results of the November conference that elected the current provincial leadership.

There were allegations that accreditation processes for the conference were flawed and that “ghost delegates” participated. The party’s own internal mechanisms to deal with such complaints found no substance in them, and even the national leadership endorsed the outcome.

Massive protest marches to the provincial offices of the ANC in Durban yielded no desired result.

News24 reported this week that Lawrence Dube, Sibahle Zikalala, Martin Mzangwa, Mzweni Ngcobo and Lindiwe Buthelezi now want the court to come to the rescue of disgruntled comrades.

Now, taking the ANC to court by members is frowned upon at the best of times.

These are the worst of times in KwaZulu-Natal when the authority of the entire provincial leadership is being challenged.

In the build-up to what may be Sunday’s massive show of strength, the party will understandably be in no mood to entertain thoughts of what would be a true catastrophe if the court were to entertain the applicants’ wishes.

But again, as supporters vote on Wednesday, the ANC might wonder if there will be a price to pay for the events that unfolded that November.

For now the message is one: Victory is certain on Wednesday. DM

Photo: Aerial view of the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup venue, the Moses Mabhida Stadium, 31 January, 2010 in Durban, South Africa. EPA/DUNCAN SMITH

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