The leadership of the ANC has been in meetings with the party’s KwaZulu-Natal factions for the past two days. After President Jacob Zuma met with former KZN chairperson and premier Senzo Mchunu and his supporters on Monday, the group were confident a compromise could be reached in the troubled province. By GREG NICOLSON.
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal showed extreme divisions even before it went to a provincial conference in December 2015, where Sihle Zikalala’s provincial executive committee (PEC) was elected. Factionalism has only increased as time passed, with supporters of former provincial chairperson Senzo Mchunu going to court, where the results of the conference were declared null and void. Yet Sthembiso Mshengu, spokesperson for the Mchunu group, was confident on Monday that a political solution, outside of court, could be reached to unite the different warring factions.
On Monday, Zuma, along with the ANC’s national officials and deployees of the national executive committee (NEC), met Senzo Mchunu and his supporters after meeting Zikalala’s group on Sunday. Mshengu said that during a “marathon” meeting his side proposed that the provincial factions negotiate a path towards unity while a task team was established to run the day-to-day activities of the KZN ANC before it holds another elective conference.
“We did highlight our unwavering support for a political process,” he said, adding his team had initiated a meeting with Zikalala on Monday to discuss how to begin talks. “Our main call is for the NEC to set up a task team that will be responsible for harmonising and organising the African National Congress,” said Mshengu. “For us, the test is how much do we want unity?
“We acknowledge that a lot of damage has been done but it’s never too late to work for peace and unity. Even in cases of war, at the end of the day the solution is a negotiated settlement,” he said. “Irrespective of the hate and the bleeding that the one side might feel, and the privilege that the other side might be celebrating, at the end of the day we accept there are times like these, but we are members of the ANC.” He said it’s time that the different factions swallowed their pride and worked towards unity within the party.
Mshengu said Zuma listened on Monday to complaints about procedural irregularities before, during and after the 2015 KZN conference, on why the event was held prematurely, branch irregularities and the disbanding of certain ANC regions within KZN. Zuma heard complaints about how the national officials failed to take up grievances, which forced those against the conference to go to court. “In the main, the president did acknowledge the shortcomings on their part,” said Mshengu.
The ANC’s top leaders visited the province after the Pietermaritzburg High Court in September ruled in favour of the application by Mchunu’s supporters, led by four of the party’s regions, and declared the 2015 conference and its election results null and void. A special meeting of the NEC recently resolved to seek legal counsel on whether to appeal the judgment and tasked the national working committee (NWC) to take matters further. While the NWC and NEC were slow to act, Zikalala’s PEC decided to appeal the judgment.
KZN is the ANC’s strongest province and while Zikalala supports Zuma’s chosen successor as ANC president, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Mchunu has backed Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Who leads KZN could have a strong influence in who its ANC branches decide to support in December. It was reported over the weekend that Zuma had taken the unusual step of seeking his own legal opinion, which he then presented to the NEC, on whether the judgment voiding the 2015 conference should be appealed. If appealed, the PEC could remain in place as leaders in the province, potentially allowing it to sway the December vote on the ANC’s national leadership.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa on Monday announced that there would be no media briefing on the outcomes of the NEC meeting over the weekend. “This is due to various deployments and engagements of the ANC national leadership,” he said. “Alternative arrangements to communicate the decisions of the meeting will be announced in due course.”
On Tuesday, Zikalala’s PEC will host a press briefing on its discussions with the ANC’s national officials. Mshengu said he couldn’t speak on what the other faction might do, but said there was word they also supported a political negotiation, with support from national leaders. He said it would not be in the best interests of unity if the PEC continues with the court appeal, but discussions between the factions could continue regardless. Ultimately, he said, it was up to the ANC’s leaders as to whether to allow the PEC to continue with its appeal and keep leading the province or whether a task team would be appointed to organise structures ahead of an elective conference. If the ANC PEC continues with its appeal, Mchunu’s supporters will oppose it.
KwaZulu-Natal might be the most important, but a number of provinces have been struck by factionalism and court cases contesting leadership ahead of the party’s December conference. This weekend saw violent clashes at the ANC’s Eastern Cape conference, which led to a court case to contest the leadership results. The party faces similar challenges in other provinces across the country as the national conference approaches.
The ANC NEC and NWC clearly seems divided on what to do with KZN. Since the court judgment declared the election of its provincial leadership illegal, it’s had weeks to deal with the matter but has so far only been able to seek further legal advice and engage the opposing sides. While Mchunu’s faction supports a task team taking over the interim running of the province and a negotiation between both sides, Zikalala’s team may not want to give up its power. On Monday Zuma listened to those opposing Dlamini-Zuma and might have agreed on the call for unity, but it’s unclear what, and when, the party’s divided national leaders might say on the matter. DM
Photo: Then ANC KZN Secretary General Sihle Zikalala and then Provincial Chair Senzo Mchunu at the now nullified 2015 conference. (SABC)
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