South Africa


Deeply divided ANC in KZN losing kingmaker status, with Zikalala omitted from party campaign slates

Former eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede. (Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / Jackie Clausen) | Sihle Zikalala, KZN Premier (Photo: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart) | MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube. (Photo: Supplied) | Former Minister of Health, Dr. Zwelini Mkhize. (Photo: Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo) | Neliswa Peggy Nkonyeni, KZN MEC for Public works (Photo: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart). All four except Zikalala are on various party campaigning slates.

In the run-up to the ANC elective conference in December, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal appears to be a ‘deeply divided’ shadow of its former self, with the province fragmented into several factions. Also, at the moment, none of the campaigning slates has the current ANC provincial chair and KZN Premier, Sihle Zikalala on its list.

In the past, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal had cemented its position as the kingmaker in the ruling party’s politics, and anyone harbouring leadership ambitions had to get the nod of the province to succeed.

But this seems less likely now in the lead-up to the 55th ANC elective conference in December 2022, as the province is fragmented into several factions that are unlikely to go to that conference with one voice.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has held five regional conferences, while six are still outstanding, including that of eThekwini region, which is the party’s biggest region in the country.

The party in the region has denied it is divided, saying that the challenges within the party arose from non-payment of salaries, which was a national head office function. It said that the go-slows by staff had delayed verification of branches.

Yet even the slates with leaders to be elected to lead the province show more divisions. These slates have been circulated in ANC structures in the province to garner support, especially in the six regions that are still to hold elective conferences.

But none of the campaigning slates has the current ANC provincial chair and KZN Premier, Sihle Zikalala, which means he is unlikely to be re-elected into his position, unless something drastic happens between now and the seating of the provincial ANC conference.

One such slate, believed to have been endorsed by some within the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) bloc, has Nomusa Dube-Ncube as the preferred candidate to lead the province as the chairperson. 

Another slate has Zandile Gumede, the former eThekwini mayor who is facing a string of corruption charges, as preferred candidate to lead the party in KZN. Peggy Nkonyeni, the current MEC for Transport and Community Safety and Liaison and a senior SACP leader in KZN, is another name being bandied about to lead the ANC in the province. 

There is also another faction that is campaigning on behalf of Zweli Mkhize, the former health minister who was forced to resign after the scandal involving the Digital Vibes contract with his department. The Mkhize lobby group has also been working very hard in the branches, zones and regions, but it is unclear at this stage what support, if any, they will garner ahead of the crucial conferences. Mkhize recently attended the ANC 110-year celebration rally, held at Mpophomeni township, outside Howick, and he sat alongside Premier Zikalala.

Xolani Dube, an independent political analyst based in Durban, said the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal is deeply divided and it is not clear which direction it will take going to the national conference.

“KZN will not be going to the upcoming conference as one voting bloc. The branches will play a larger role and the branch secretaries and chairperson will be holding trump cards and they will want something in return for their votes.

“It is my contention that KwaZulu-Natal’s influence in the election of the ANC national leadership is waning significantly and has been on [a] downward spiral for a number of years. There is a lot of realignment going [on] in provincial and regional politics within the party. There are too many internal dynamics that are outside the national factional alignment or arrangement,” he said.

“What is also clear is that these realignments are not influenced by (former president Jacob) Zuma. His influence in provincial politics is waning. People are talking about the politics of the stomach and they understand that Zuma cannot help them in any way so they are carving their own future with no regard as to what he thinks or says.

Former ANC President Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

“The Zuma lobby group and the RET forces don’t have funds to persuade delegates to vote for them. The money and stomach politics play a very large role in ANC politics, especially in the KZN province,” he said.

Wayne Sussman, an independent political analyst, said it is “a stunning political development” that Zikalala is not in any of the slates. He said this could be his (Zikalala’s) punishment for recent electoral defeat in the 1 November local government election and for betraying the Zuma faction in favour of the Ramaphosa faction. He added that the dynamics often do not follow the national trends.

“We often reduce our political analysis in terms of Zuma vs Ramaphosa factions, whereas, in the provinces and regions there are up to three and more factions that are not related to the national factions. This is more nuanced in provinces like KZN where politics is more complicated. This has much more to do with common interests and jockeying for positions rather than ideology and following factions and personalities. The KZN ANC politics is more complex,” Sussman said.

Nhlakanipho Ntombela, spokesperson for the ANC in KZN, denied that there were deep divisions in the organisation. He said that so far the organisation has successfully held five regional conferences, with the other six regional conferences still outstanding.

“The other (six regional) conferences will be held in January and February. The challenges we have experienced [are] that in some of these regions the ANC staff had not been paid their salaries and they embarked on go-slow strikes. This is beyond our power because the paying of staff salaries is done by the national office.

“This go-slow has impacted on verification of branches that have been launched and the reports thereof. We don’t know how long this would take because we don’t know when the national office will pay these workers,” he said.

There was a group from the Moses Mabhida region — the ANC’s second-biggest region in KwaZulu-Natal — that threatened to take the KZN provincial leadership to court if the newly elected leadership was not dissolved. In that conference, held on 18 December 2021, Mzimkhulu Thebolla, the mayor of Msunduzi Municipality in Pietermaritzburg, beat Mzi Zuma — uMgungundlovu District Municipality Mayor — for the position of Moses Mabhida ANC regional chairperson. Samora Ndlovu, the Richmond Local Municipality Mayor, was elected as the regional secretary.

Ntombela said: “Those are the people who were part of the conference when it was held. The conference was held successfully and some won and others were defeated. When they came to us we told them they should have brought their issues before the conference sat. They threatened to take us to court three days after we received their letter of complaint. We don’t know what they are going to say in court because we believe they have no basis for taking this matter to court. The three days they gave us have come and gone and we have been waiting for the letter calling us to court and so far none has come to us,” he said.

He said the provincial conference will be held once all the regional conferences have been held, and the national office has given KwaZulu-Natal the go-ahead to hold it. DM 


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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Coen Gous says:

    Slowly but surely the ANC is destroying itself from within. As each day passes, the eventual end is closer. And it will happen, as unity was simply wishful thinking.. A few weeks ago I predicted the ANC will not get beyond 40% of the vote in 2024. Now, even that figure is optimistic, as their supporter base in rural areas will also start to dwindle. Me think it is almost game over. The only question that remains, is which political party(s) will be able to either self-correct themselves (DA), or be able to take full advantage of this situation. And it is with the latter uncertainty that SA faces a very, very uncertain future.

    • Roger Sheppard says:

      …Coen Gous, [the DA] self-correct from what!! Get a DA Policy Statement from them – it won’t cost you.
      Further, SA has faced a very very uncertain future from the year of the signing, in 1962, of a commitment to the National Democratic Revolution, by the ANC-in-exile and the SACP, also in exile at that time. In short long before now!

      The National Party hierarchy pooh-pooh’d even a ‘dream’ that this NDR would ever take political identity, with its majority never having ever heard of it – as most whites never had either!. And then they (The Natsw) proved that they could not “self-correct” either. Many of their supporters today also still cannot “self-correct”.

      But, I digress. Some attempt at coalitions will arise, surely, come 2024 elections. And THAT will provide guidelines for thinking on a ‘final solution(s): RSA – quo vadis stuff’, I suspect. Predicting beyond that is close to guessing!

      • Coen Gous says:

        Mr. Sheppard, I am not about to get into some kind of debate with you. The DA’s policies are on their website, and easy to get. However, the significant drop in support in the 2021 local elections happened for a reason, and policies have little to do with that. I think I know why it happened, but will leave it there. And it happened at the same time as the even more significant drop in support for the ANC. So something is not right, but that does not mean it can again be turned around, or self-correct. It is for them into figure out exactly how. I have no doubt that the government, post 2024 elections will indeed be a coalition agreement. But I agree with you, the makeup of such a coalition is impossible to predict, and can only be guesswork at this stage.

        • Martin Ernst says:

          The DA will never win an election as long as it’s playing the race game. Playing by the ANC and EFF’s race based rules, the DA would always be at a major disadvantage. The DA has to change the focus from race to the real underlying issues, to face any chance of success. ActionSA however as a new party without the perception of white elitism, but a (largely) much more pragmatic policy position than the EFF or ANC gives me some hope (but it’s such a new party and most new parties haven’t lasted long)

        • Paddy Ross says:

          I can’t believe that a seemingly intelligent South African can say “and policies have little to do with that”. No wonder SA is in the mess in which it finds itself.

          • Coen Gous says:

            The policies of the DA is fine. But since you once again can only comment when the word DA is mentioned and then with usual critic of someone else’s opinion, I will only refer you to the reply of Martin Ernts,m whom I whole-heartedly agree with. Policies is one thing, execution of policies another matter altogether, plus the very individual executing those policies. The ANC itself also seems to have fair policies, but look at the mess they are in.

  • Johan Buys says:

    What happens if the elected chair is unable to perform his/her role because he/she is in prison and the vice-chair is also in prison?

  • Colleen Dardagan says:

    Peggy Nkonyeni, Zandile Gumede and Zweli Mkhize – no man! Where are the fresh young faces, people who have the best interests of the country/province at heart rather than their stomachs.
    Seriously, the province of KZN is in a state of collapse, roads, infrastructure, water and power supply are all a mess. Corruption is rampant and our cities and country towns have been absolutely destroyed by mis-management. Surely we cannot have these same old politicians with huge black marks against their names foisted on the people again. No, no, no!

  • Sandra Goldberg says:

    What a mess! Seems KZN a microcism of the party at large , but even more complicated! Almost feel sorry for Zikalala who seems damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t! The current crop of names put forward as potential leaders , leave a great deal to be desired. Where is the budding aspirant New President in all of this – one Duduzane Zuma?

    • Coen Gous says:

      Why is it that there are so few women lending their voices on DM as contributors? Like you and Colleen, and some others. Maybe I am biased, but I find it such a refreshing take on what some of us dinosaur males contributors have to say. Never insulting, never patronising, just giving facts and credible comments!

  • Ian Cox says:

    Hyena’s bickering over the carcass of a once prosperous province. I wonder what Gauteng will do when its access to the sea is blocked by graft and incompetence.

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