The ANC is ready to proceed with its provincial conference in KwaZulu-Natal, which has been heavily divided in recent years, the party’s Secretary-General Ace Magashule said on Monday after the ANC’s national working committee met with local structures.
ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule was optimistic on Monday that the party’s divided KwaZulu-Natal structures had found common ground during meetings with the national working committee (NWC) and could this year host a conference to elect provincial leaders after the party’s 2015 KZN conference was nullified by the courts.
“Comrades are working together to forge unity for the ANC so we are able to score a decisive victory in terms of our general elections next year,” said Magashule in a press conference after the NWC spent Sunday and Monday engaging provincial and regional leaders.
“We are highly impressed by the leadership of KZN at regional and provincial level and we come out of this meeting more encouraged that the ANC in this province, and we hope throughout the country, is on the right course of uniting and forging ahead with unity and cohesion,” he continued.
In 2017 supporters of former provincial leader Senzo Mchunu won a court case to nullify the outcomes of the 2015 provincial conference that saw Sihle Zikalala elected chairperson. Mchunu was aligned to President Ramaphosa’s ANC leadership campaign while Zikalala backed former president Jacob Zuma and his preferred successor Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
In 2018, the ANC appointed an interim task team to lead the province ahead of the planned conference, but the different camps have both expressed anger over the process. The march towards the KZN conference has included allegations of gatekeeping and violence. Zikalala’s supporters have called for the conference to be held promptly while his opposition wanted it delayed.
“It is un-ANC to have guns at meetings, fighting and all those things and we have condemned those matters,” said Magashule.
“The issue of gatekeeping is no more a big issue because we have said that any member who feels ‘that doesn’t appear on the register’ or feels that there is gatekeeping must approach the leadership.”
Despite ANC members from both camps holding recent demonstrations, Magashule said there was relative unity and cohesion in the province. He said the interim task team leading the province will now become a provincial task team and it is highly probably the party will be able to hold conferences in the province and contested regions this year.
Zikalala’s opponents have accused his camp of sidelining them during meetings. Bodyguards, allegedly representing local party leaders, were caught on camera two weeks ago firing their pistols to ward off ANC members trying to access a meeting.
KwaZulu-Natal is one battleground for the fight for power in the ANC. Ramaphosa is trying to secure and build support across the country while those allied to former president Zuma are trying to retain power as the pendulum swings Ramaphosa’s way.
Zuma’s supporters, including Magashule himself, are on the back foot as Ramaphosa has slowly started targeting leaders implicated in corruption scandals, but it’s reported Zuma’s camp hopes to use KZN as its base in their efforts to retain support. If the ANC national executive committee endorses plans to hold a provincial conference soon rather than after the 2019 elections, it could benefit Zikalala, who has enjoyed the benefits of incumbency.
North West is another battleground. Protesters shut down Mahikeng last week, calling for the resignation or recall of Premier Supra Mahumapelo, ANC chairperson in the province and a key Zuma ally. They cited a string of service delivery failures and corruption allegations against the premier. The protests started after a motion of no confidence in Mahumapelo was postponed as the EFF, leading the motion, has gone to court to hold the vote by secret ballot.
Mahumapelo wouldn’t comment on the calls for his removal or corruption allegations against him on Monday, but he has previously claimed he was being targeted for supporting Dlamini-Zuma.
“The North West issue is an ongoing discussion because there are organisational issues and there are government issues and government is actually addressing some of the issues which are related to government,” said Magashule on Monday.
Ramaphosa jetted into Mahikeng amid the crisis on Friday and held a meeting with provincial leaders. While acknowledging protesters’ concerns and calling for calm, the president did not announce any decisive steps against Mahumapelo.
Magashule said the ANC will soon release a report into problems in the province.
“We have actually mandated the president to deal with some government issues and the ANC is continuing to deal with organisational challenges and issues and very soon you will get the report.”
Both provinces suffer from internal divisions as factions battle for control in the wake of the ANC’s December 2017 elective conference. Resolving them is crucial for the party’s 2019 election chances. DM
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