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PARTY IN DISARRAY

ANC firmly on the ropes in KwaZulu-Natal — rescue mission launched

ANC firmly on the ropes in KwaZulu-Natal — rescue mission launched
A KwaZulu-Natal ANC delegate at the party’s 55th national conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg on 16 December 2022. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

ANC top brass will this weekend visit its structures in KwaZulu-Natal to discuss issues including the school feeding scheme scandal, eThekwini being placed under administration and the party’s decline in popularity in the province.

A much-anticipated meeting between the ANC’s National Working Committee (NWC) and the party’s KwaZulu-Natal leaders – steered by Siboniso Duma – will have very serious matters on the table which could decide the fate of the provincial leadership.

The meeting will be held from Saturday to Monday, and NWC members are expected to visit various regions to pin down the issues affecting ANC structures.

The placing of eThekwini municipality under Section 154 intervention – which means the running of the metro has been removed from politicians and is now in the hands of administrator Cassius Lubisi – is an indication of the seriousness of the challenges facing the ANC in the province.

Some issues are organisational, but many others have to do with the actions – or lack thereof – of the ANC-run administration.

Hardly a week passes without ANC officials in KZN being in the news for the wrong reasons.

Before this week’s announcement that the national government was intervening in the running of the eThekwini municipality, there was a disastrous blunder involving the school feeding scheme.

The KZN Department of Education gave a R2-billion tender to a company owned by politically connected individuals to supply more than 5,000 schools with enough food to feed millions of pupils from poor families. 

The municipality later terminated the contract, leaving the schools without food for the past few weeks.

On the political front, the ANC’s top brass is not happy that since the new provincial leadership was elected last year, the party has lost by-election after by-election to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

Most worrying for the party is that it’s losing in what were traditionally ANC strongholds, heightening the fear that the party is on the road to losing KZN to an alliance of the IFP, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and other smaller parties.

In the 2021 local elections, the ANC garnered only 42% of the vote in KZN, losing several key municipalities to the IFP and DA. In eThekwini it clung to power by a thread, thanks to the help of smaller parties. In the 2019 general elections, ANC support dropped to 55.4% – down from 59% in 2014, when Jacob Zuma was president.

By-election losses

ANC insiders say unhappiness over by-election losses became apparent after the party’s last national executive committee meeting, where the matter was to be addressed with urgency. 

During the meeting, there was talk about how the ANC’s provincial leadership was not holding, and that regions, zones and branches were not getting the necessary support from the provincial headquarters, and this was contributing to the loss of support and drubbings in the by-elections.

Speaking to Daily Maverick, election expert Wayne Sussman said the ANC has lost significant support to the IFP in a number of its strongholds, which poses a threat to its future in the province.

Sussman said the ANC had lost wards in the northern regions, in urban centres like Pietermaritzburg and Msunduzi, and in the southern parts of the province. The IFP took at least two wards in Nongoma, a ward in uMvoti and another in uMhlabuyalingana, which had previously been held by the ANC.

“There is always an opportunity for a political party to change the situation around. There are lots of challenges for the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, including the 2021 riots and the feeding scheme scandal. Having the right activists and team could be what the party needs,” he said.

Then there are disgruntled members of the party who are pushing for the disbandment of leadership structures in the province. Calls to disband the provincial executive committee are unlikely to be successful, though, as this would even further weaken the party’s hold on the province.

Despite fielding the greatest number of delegates at the ANC’s national conference last year, KZN failed to get one of its own into the top seven because of divisions within its ranks. The same thing happened in 2017.

Meanwhile, national officials will be on the campaign trail this weekend as the ANC contests a by-election in eThekwini’s ward 73. The ward is in Chatsworth, a predominantly Indian area, that was won by the DA in 2021. Ward councillor Ronnie Pillay recently resigned.

There are also by-elections scheduled for ward 15 in Mandeni municipality in northern KZN and ward 12 in uMzimkhulu local municipality. Both councillors died earlier this year. DM

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