First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

Zumaland: The centre is not holding in KZN ahead of ANC...

South Africa

OP-ED

Zumaland: The centre is not holding in KZN and the powder keg is likely to reignite

From left: Former Ukhozi FM presenter Ngizwe Mchunu. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo) | Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | Former president Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane. Zuma. (Photo: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)

The groundswell of support for former president Jacob Zuma among key KwaZulu-Natal ANC regions means the powder keg that saw the province erupt in flames in July last year following his imprisonment could be reignited. 

Ahead of the critical provincial elective conference next month, it has become important for leaders to demonstrate public support for Zuma in his court battles to stay out of prison.

This plays into the narrative that he is an 80-year-old man who should be left alone to enjoy the last days of his life and that he is a victim of political machinations by opponents of radical economic transformation. 

His imprisonment for contempt of court last year sparked wanton destruction and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng that cost four hundred lives and billions of rands while the economy was under siege from the devastation of the Covid-19 restrictions.

The throngs that gathered outside Zuma’s Nkandla home that July night had sworn to defend him and prevent the police from taking him into custody. In the end, he surrendered, but his province went up in flames.  

Now the dark clouds are gathering again. He returns to the Pietermaritzburg High Court on 1 August for the Arms Deal trial that is yet to begin in earnest, 17 years since he was first indicted. 

On another front, he is appealing the ruling by Gauteng High Court Judge Elias Matojane that the granting of his medical parole was unlawful and that he should go back to prison. He was released by former correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser two months into his 15-month sentence for contempt of court after he failed to appear before the Zondo Commission. The appeal is expected to be heard on 15 August.

But a month before that, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal will hold its provincial elective conference where the current chairman and premier Sihle Zikalala will face a multipronged challenge by factions representing different shades of radical economic transformation and those backing president Cyril Ramaphosa’s effort to renew the ANC and restore it to its former glory as a proud liberation movement free of corruption and lust for material gain.

Whatever the inclination of individual leaders between these two broad factions in the ANC, the Zuma factor is once again a major consideration in the build-up to the conference. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the divide as Zuma’s legal woes once again threaten to bring the province to the brink. 

Zuma’s home region of Musa Dladla has taken a firm resolution that he must be shown support and that other regions should also be persuaded to be with him in court for solidarity. The largest ANC region, Zandile Gumede’s eThekwini, is also backing Zuma and its preferences for the provincial leadership carry substantial weight.  

But what is the endgame for Zuma’s supporters? 

How far are they prepared to go to ensure that he does not end up in prison – in August or beyond that when the Zondo Commission recommendations are implemented and key players in the State Capture project are prosecuted?

Because of deep divisions within the leadership core of KwaZulu-Natal, there cannot be a coherent response to the challenge posed by a fallout arising from Zuma’s troubles. This is particularly so because there does not appear to be a mechanism to rein in loose cannons among those who profess their love for Zuma. 

Besides his children, in particular, Duduzile, who perhaps understandably, would not mind if the whole country was reduced to ashes in support of their father, there are also the likes of former Ukhozi FM presenter, Ngizwe Mchunu. 

 


Mchunu uses his popular appeal on social media and whenever he takes to the podium on occasions arranged to drum up support for Zuma, to vent the most virulent insults and derogatory utterances against senior ANC leaders, in particular president Ramaphosa and premier Zikalala. 

In the presence of ANC leaders, he instigates mayhem in the defence of Zuma and is particularly proud that he is facing charges as one of those behind the July unrest.

Dismissed by many as a mere jester who rambles on incoherently, he is the KwaZulu-Natal face the law enforcement agencies have given us as the evil force behind the July uprising. 

After his physical confrontation with Zikalala during a concert in Durban two weeks ago, he laid assault charges against the premier, who in turn did the same against him.

But anybody who watched his interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation after the incident would agree that Mchunu needs help.  

Now, if after an insurrection that left two million people jobless and set the economy back by R50bn can be laid at the door of the likes of Mchunu, it suggests that the political leadership in KwaZulu-Natal cannot rule out a full-scale insurrection directed by those who would rather go down with the whole country than see Zuma in prison. 

With his stance and public pronouncements about Ramaphosa and Zikalala, Mchunu cannot be a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC. But for some reason he is invited to ANC platforms to spew profanities against the most senior of its leaders. Some of the insults are profoundly based on notions of tribalism and ethnicity.

That can only mean that the centre is not holding in the provincial leadership. With a potentially bitter leadership contest on the horizon, it becomes difficult to call to order those in cahoots with elements that undermine the renewal project. 

Preservation of self supersedes organisational discipline while a cloud of another uprising looms larger as the August dates approach for proper battles for Zuma’s survival.  

The outcome of the provincial conference will determine whether KwaZulu-Natal opens a new chapter or remains perpetually on the brink, fearful of doom if the law takes its course. DM

Cyril Madlala is a former editor of Umafrika and The Independent on Saturday in KwaZulu-Natal. Over the years he has reported extensively on provincial and national politics, particularly the transition from apartheid to the democratic dispensation.

 

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 10

  • Inarticulate ANC drunken thugs conference who only know playground violence and call it leadership. Since when has laughing been Zulu culture? The future of our province and country depends on these so-called leaders. God help us.

  • Why facing charges and not prosecuted a year later? Duduzile should be charged with hate speech and instigating violence. Individual ANC leaders should lay charges of crimen injuria if they are insulted – why not swamp them legal issues? If there is death and mayhem in KZN again, will there be a more organised response to protect people? Probably not as the same incompetents are still wedged in positions they don’t deserve.

  • How can a disparate tribe of antagonists like the ANC present itself as a single party? The factions have nothing in common, not integrity, ideology, strategy nor vision. Zuma’s acolytes should own up to what they are: the internal branch of the ATM, embedded in the party to divide and irritate; the unionists should take their confrontational socialism and own it as a separate party. The rest should clean up their act and try to behave like decent citizens. This way, we would see what the respective support of these factions really is, stripped of the noise of strident social media rantings.
    If only….

  • And thus, thanks to the ineptitude of the ANC, we see yet another prime example of the pattern of weakness in democracy originally written about in Plato’s Republic. The inevitable result, according to Plato, is a case of a lesser of two evils. Either the stronger faction becomes ever more tyrannical to maintain order over the weaker, or the fragile union regresses and fragments into it’s former natural (cultural) boundaries anyway. Both results are mired with violence and instability.

    Are we really a united republic? Should we be? The cowardly communists would have us believe that we have a sort of ideological unity but I think that’s just their usual inability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

    As far as I can tell, the only way to head off the more serious fragmentations (if we still somehow believe in staying a united republic) is to reorganise the top levels of government into a decentralised federal system. And we need to do this yesterday. The only thing standing in the way of such a system is the insufferable arrogance of the ANC and their retarded vision of a centralised authority that they were force-fed by their former communist masters.

    Morally speaking, the ANC movement is a joke. It is time for them to swallow their pride (for they have nothing left to be proud of anyway) and modernise. History will not be kind; even less so if they fail to rise above their obsolete and irrelevant past.

    • Time to think about a strong federation. Reduce Central government to the minimum and let the provinces get on with the job themselves.

  • As a resident of Durban I agree there is simmering discontent in the region. Taxis are not running normally and there was attempted looting in Hammarsdale on Friday. Like many South Africans I would love to see Zuma behind bars but maybe the pragmatic, sensible thing to do in view of his age is to drop the charges, save us all a lot of money, and defuse the entire situation.

  • Let us look at this scenario for what it is. On the one hand, we have informed citizens from all groups having a say but unable to do much about it; on the other, we have uninformed citizens, primarily rural-based, who will react to the stimulus of free tee shirts, food parcels, and carpet baggers. Enter the Government in no less a person than the highest elected official in the land, the President (past that is)!
    The machinations of JM are well documented; his behaviour could make him a Judas on a national scale. But here is the thing. Despite what he is and what he is responsible for, powerful factions still work behind the scenes to reinstate him as a good guy! This is astonishing and an indictment of those persons and groups who either cannot see him for what he is or are unwilling to accept the truth. And these groups want to run the country!
    There was a time when we all had hope for the future of the country. Alas, this has become a pipe dream and we are slowly but surely sinking into the wilderness of what is Africa.

  • Of course, this presumes that the riots/attempted insurrection last year actually had anything to do with JZs imprisonment? Perhaps JZs imprisonment was just a coincidental excuse for an attempt to overthrow the government.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted