Zweli Mkhize needs strong endorsement from KZN for his ANC leadership campaign to succeed
It’s going to be a long and arduous journey to the finish line for former health minister and ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize.
The campaign by former health minister and ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize to lead the party in the upcoming national elective conference is in limbo as branches and regions of the ANC are deeply focused on horse trading ahead of the KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial conference scheduled for 15 to 17 July.
Mkhize announced last weekend that he was throwing his hat in the ring to lead the party. He seemed to have got the nod of approval from traditional leaders and some informal structures of the ANC in KZN, but the real extent of his support will be determined by formal provincial structures.
For Mkhize to stand any chance of mounting a successful campaign, he needs a strong endorsement from KZN, his home province.
Although many branches and regions that spoke to DM168 admitted that they had been approached by Mkhize lobbyists to support his campaign, they had not taken a decision on whether to support him or not.
Many regions said they supported, in principle, the idea of having a leader from KZN in the Top Six of the ANC, but whether that will be enough to support Mkhize’s bid to vie for the top post is not clear, at least until after the ANC provincial conference.
Regions that spoke to DM168 this week, including Moses Mabhida, said the issue of who they supported nationally was “premature” at this stage.
Njabulo Mtolo, spokesperson for the Moses Mabhida region, which is the home region of Mkhize, confirmed that branches, and the regional leadership itself, had been lobbied to support Mkhize.
“It is quite correct that Khabazela [Mkhize’s clan name] comes from this region. But it is also true that the ANC is an organisation that is governed by processes and we have not opened the [national] leadership process. At this stage, our energies are focused on the provincial leadership and policy processes. After we are done with that, we will then focus on … the national conference and formulate our position and leadership preferences around that.”
The eThekwini ANC region is the biggest region in the party nationally, with more than 110 branches and more than 100,000 members. It is thus regarded as one of the most influential regions in the party.
Mlondi Mkhize, spokesperson for the eThekwini region, said they were also worried about disunity in the province.
“We have dropped the ball in KZN; we have dropped the ball in eThekwini. To us in eThekwini, in order to defend and fortify the movement, we need to clean [up] things here. We cannot pronounce on the national leadership until we sort ourselves out.
“Our stance as eThekwini is that we don’t want to get involved in the current factions taking shape in KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.
These factions are the Status Quo, also known as Friends Like These, which wants the leadership of Sihle Zikalala (the ANC KZN provincial chairperson) and Mdumiseni Ntuli (the provincial secretary) to remain in their positions.
That faction is facing off with another one called the Taliban, headed by current KZN Legislature chairperson of committees and former ANC Youth League leader Sboniso Duma.
The Status Quo wants Zikalala to retain his position, with Kwazi Mshengu as the deputy chairperson. In this slate KZN provincial secretary Ntuli will retain his position and Sipho Hlomuka will stand for deputy provincial secretary.
Zandile Gumede, the controversial ANC eThekwini chairperson and accused in the R320-million Durban Solid Waste tender fraud, corruption and money laundering case, is featured on both slates as the candidate for the position of provincial treasurer.
The Taliban faction wants Duma for the position of the KZN ANC provincial chairperson. As the deputy chairperson the Taliban is fielding Bheki Mahlaba, the Newcastle surgeon who was a former mayor of Newcastle (and who was once charged with but later cleared of killing a political rival). For the position of provincial secretary, the Taliban will field Bheki Mtolo, the former ANC Youth League leader and former mayor of the Greater Kokstad Municipality.
Xolani Dube, a political analyst with the Xubera Institute for Research and Development, said Mkhize’s chances of taking on Ramaphosa and winning were slim.
“Zweli [Mkhize] is a very smart politician. He knows that he will not win against Ramaphosa. But his campaign is that of a bitter man. He feels he is the one who brokered a deal that brought back Ramaphosa to mainstream politics … Now he is facing law enforcement agencies and had expected Ramaphosa to defend him but that has not happened,” Dube said.
Many branches and regional leaders in KwaZulu-Natal, especially those who are supportive of Mkhize’s campaign, contend that whoever was raising their head to challenge Ramaphosa was being persecuted by law enforcement and other state agencies.
Dube said: “There is growing evidence that those who are against Ramaphosa are being prosecuted for corruption and those who are supporting him are protected.” DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.