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Zuma’s influence on the wane as KZN fails to deliver at ANC conference

Zuma’s influence on the wane as KZN fails to deliver at ANC conference
From left: Zweli Mkhize. (Photo:Mandla Langa | Mdumiseni Ntuli (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | Phumulo Masualle (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

As soon as the results of the ANC’s 55th national conference were announced, it became clear that the biggest loser was the KwaZulu-Natal ANC — ironically, the province with the largest number of delegates at 877.

This is the second time in a row that the province has come out of the ANC’s national conference empty-handed. During the 2017 conference, KZN was the focal point of the campaign of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, but she lost to Cyril Ramaphosa by just 179 votes.

This time around, KZN’s main candidate, Zweli Mkhize, lost to Cyril Ramaphosa by more than 500 votes.

zuma kzn mkhize

Disappointed Zweli Mkhize supporters at the 55th ANC National Conference on 19 December 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

It seems that Paul Mashatile — who scraped through with 2,178 votes to Oscar Mabuyane’s 1,858 — won the deputy president post because of broad support from several provinces.

With a 50-vote margin, Nomvula Mokonyane also scraped through against Tina Joemat-Pettersson to take the position of first deputy secretary-general. She, too, seemed to have had her candidature supported by various interest groups in several provinces, as well as by the Women’s League.

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For the position of chairperson, KwaZulu-Natal had supported Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha, in the hope that he would deliver his province with its third-largest representation at the conference, with 613 voting delegates. However, incumbent Gwede Mantashe pipped Mathabatha at the post by just over 50 votes.

Their preferred candidate for the key secretary-general position was former Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle, who lost out to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.

KwaZulu-Natal also had a promising candidate for secretary-general coming from its ranks in the form of Mdumiseni Ntuli. But they decided to snub his campaign despite the fact that he had received the largest number of nominations from branches of the ANC throughout the country. As a result of the snub, Ntuli lost to Mbalula by just over 600 votes.

Here, too, it seemed that Ntuli’s campaign got stuck in the final days before voting, when intense backroom lobbying and horse-trading was the order of the day. The snub by his province hampered his lobbyists, robbing them of anything tangible to bring to the table.

KZN accepts defeat

After the announcement of the results, the KZN ANC leadership went to the podium to congratulate the winners. This, according to some analysts, was a sign that the province had accepted defeat.

KZN provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo told journalists that the provincial leadership had fought a spirited campaign and lost. He said they accepted the outcome.

“The new leadership was elected democratically,” he said.

Sboniso Duma, KZN ANC chairperson, had said the province would have to find a way to work with the new elected leadership, even if it consisted of people who were not the province’s preferred leaders.

It seems the KwaZulu-Natal ANC leaders relied heavily on provincial and regional leaders it had lobbied, hoping they would bring with them their delegates. But rebellion against these leaders by their provincial delegates is what helped to secure Ramaphosa’s win.

Division and indecisiveness

Verus Ncaphalala, the 38-year-old secretary of the ANC’s Far North region in KZN, said he believed the province lost because of internal division and indecisiveness.

“This is an ANC conference… whatever the outcomes of these elections, we will accept and embrace it because the elected leadership is still our leadership. Everything went smoothly and the elections were run very well.

“I think we [KZN] lost because we could not consolidate our position. I think this is because we were not united. If you look at other provinces, they united over names — whichever name they put forward. In KZN we did not unite, especially on the position of the secretary-general. Had all of us supported Ntuli… he would have won easily,” Ncaphalala said.

It seems the election results will have a far-reaching effect in provinces beyond KZN. During their animated victory parades, some delegates went to Mathabatha (Limpopo ANC chairperson) and Nono Maloyi, the ANC leader in North West province, chanting that they want to have provincial general council meetings to recall the two leaders for betraying the mandate from branches who wanted Ramaphosa. These two leaders, they say, backed Mkhize after being lobbied.

Zuma fails

Other pundits say the result will have an impact on the influence of former president Jacob Zuma in national and regional politics.

Protas Madlala, a KZN-based political analyst, said: “Former president Zuma came to the conference with an agenda. His main target was to get rid of Ramaphosa. I am sure that, wherever he is, he is very sad about the outcome of these elections.

“He (Zuma) is very bitter. He seems to think that Ramaphosa is responsible for his recall and for all his troubles. He has been calling him names which are very unpalatable.

“From now on, the influence of Zuma will wane in South Africa and in KwaZulu-Natal politics. He has been known as this former president who is extremely popular, and if you are not on his side, you are out… Now that has been proven wrong. I think people overestimated his influence, especially after he was forced out of power.”

Madlala added that Zuma was among several ANC members implicated in corruption and named by the Zondo Commission who are not comfortable with Ramaphosa’s victory.

“They felt they must get rid of him so that they can get away. They regard him as the key to their escaping from accountability and prosecutions for their actions,” Madlala said. DM


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