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Siboniso Duma’s rise to power as ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson
Those who have been keenly following ANC politics over the years would know that Mthombeni, as Duma is affectionately known, is a seasoned chess player in ANC politics, having carved his niche in the often crude and brutal ANC Youth League (ANCYL) school.
As was expected after he lost the chair of the ANC KZN region, Sihle Zikalala has resigned as provincial premier. His resignation was accepted by the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) on Thursday. He was succeeded as chairperson by Siboniso Duma. Here’s the story of how Duma rose from obscurity to the top of the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal Taliban.
The KwaZulu-Natal ANC PEC nominated three candidates who will be interviewed to replace Sihle Zikalala. They are Nomusa Dube-Ncube, Amanda Bani and Mbali Frazer. Glaringly absent from the candidates was Siboniso Duma, who succeeded Zikalala as ANC KZN chair at the party’s provincial elective conference over the weekend of 22 July 2022.
Many were surprised when the little-known Siboniso Duma and his entire Taliban faction defeated Sihle Zikalala and his faction.
Read in Daily Maverick: “New ANC KZN leader Siboniso Duma saves Cyril Ramaphosa from embarrassment“
But those who have been keenly following ANC politics over the years would know that Mthombeni, as Duma is affectionately known, is a seasoned chess player in ANC politics, having carved his niche in the often crude and brutal ANC Youth League (ANCYL) school.
Duma hails from Mtwalume on the lower south coast of KZN. He was the ANC deputy chairperson of the George Mbhele branch from 2004 to 2006.
In May 2010 Duma was part of the KZN ANCYL leadership that emerged in the elective conference held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College campus. Duma was elected deputy secretary general, thus starting his rise to the political limelight.
That KZN ANCYL leadership had many run-ins with then Malema-led Youth League national leadership. Malema and others had a bitter fallout with former president Jacob Zuma and did not back him for the second term going into the 2012 Mangaung ANC elective conference.
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On the other hand, the entire KZN ANCYL leadership endorsed Zuma and were fully behind him.
On 10 Nov 2011 Malema was suspended for five years from the African National Congress, meaning he had to step down as president of the ANCYL. Malema went on to form the Economic Freedom Fighters.
After that, Duma returned to his region, where he was elected as the deputy leader.
During the 2018 ANC KZN provincial elective conference Duma was elected to the PEC. In the KZN Legislature he has served in many committees and he is currently serving as the KZN Chairperson of Committees.
Daily Maverick tried several times in the first week of August to interview Duma and former chair Sihle Zikalala but both declined.
But some within his close circle say Duma was a reluctant candidate for what has now become known as the Taliban, a group from the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction and youthful leaders who worship former president Jacob Zuma and who were deeply unhappy when he was “humiliated” and sent to jail for contempt of court.
“The Taliban wanted someone like (former KZN ANC provincial secretary) Mdumiseni Ntuli to take on Sihle Zikalala. When Ntuli declined the offer, they then settled on Duma,” said one source.
The Taliban/RET formation were also deeply unhappy about the leadership of Sihle Zikalala, who was and still is accused of using the mastery or dexterity of former president Zuma to mount a successful challenge against former KZN ANC leader Senzo Mchunu and thereafter selling out to the hated Ramaphosa faction.
Zakhele Ndlovu, an independent political analyst and senior political lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said there is no doubt that Duma and the Taliban faction benefited from the anti-Zikalala sentiments within the ANC in KZN.
“Duma is not going to bring us anything new. What is clear about the new KZN ANC leadership is that it is pro-Zuma. From what we witnessed during the policy conference, this new leadership is being isolated by other ANC provinces. The step aside issue they wanted out was retained by the majority of the delegates from other provinces. This new leadership will have to decide how to relate with the other provinces, which at the moment strongly support Ramaphosa,” he said.
Professor Bheki Mngomezulu, a political analyst based at the University of the Western Cape, said so far Duma has acquitted himself very well and he has assured Zikalala and other ANC leaders that there would be no purge.
Both analysts said in the post KZN ANC elective conference, Zikalala had found himself in the precarious position of a lame-duck premier, whose fate is at the mercy of the people who contested him for power.
Ndlovu said “It would be interesting to see how the new KZN ANC leadership navigates the period between now and 2024 elections where the ANC’s hold on power is under threat from its political opponents.
“It is clear that many Zuma and RET supporters did not go out to vote in the November 2021 local government elections. I do not see the new leadership coming with anything that will galvanise the ANC support and make people go out there and vote for the party,” Ndlovu said. DM