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New ANC Western Cape leader Vuyiso ‘JJ’ Tyhalisisu vows to fight party factionalism

New ANC Western Cape leader Vuyiso ‘JJ’ Tyhalisisu vows to fight party factionalism
New ANC Western Cape chairperson Vuyiso ‘JJ’ Tyhalisisu. (Photo: Nathi Qondile)

The man entrusted with leading a highly divided ANC in the Western Cape says he will ensure that there are no factions under his stewardship.

Vuyiso “JJ” Tyhalisisu, the man who has been entrusted with turning around the fortunes of the ANC in the Western Cape, says his first task is to deal with factionalism in the party.

Tyhalisisu was elected as the party’s new provincial chairperson at the weekend. It was a watershed moment for the party in the province, which has failed to convene a conference for the past eight years.

He was on the “Rural for Change” slate, which wanted the province to have leaders from the rural parts of the province, unlike before when they came from the Cape Town metropolitan area.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Win back the Western Cape, Ramaphosa tells newly elected ANC provincial leaders

Tyhalisisu is not a man of many words and sometimes gives one-line responses to questions. One of the first people to congratulate him was the ANC national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe.

Coming to the conference, Tyhalisisu was not a candidate for the position but following the surprise withdrawal of former convener Lerumo Kalako, Tyhalisisu was nominated from the floor and in the end came up on top, beating the party’s leader in the provincial legislature, Cameron Dugmore.

Tyhalisisu’s nomination and victory came as a surprise even to Dugmore, who said he did not expect it.

The new chairperson is originally from the fruit and wine farming town of Ashton, near Robertson. He is a former councillor in the City of Cape Town and served two terms as regional secretary of the now disbanded Dullah Omar region.

The region is the party’s largest in the province in terms of membership, and he was at the centre of accusations of promoting factionalism within the region which led to its disbandment. But like his national leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa, he is now preaching unity.

“I want to first make it clear that our election has no relation with the disbandment of the regional executive committee of Dullah Omar,” he said. “The disbandment of a structure does not find those in the structure guilty of an offence. We are provincial leaders for the first time and we are bringing different sets of skills.”

For the first time in its history, the province’s top five leaders are all from different regions. Sharon Davids from Boland was elected as the new deputy chair, and West Coast’s Neville Delport was elected as provincial secretary.

Ayanda Bans from Central Karoo won the deputy secretary position, beating JJ van Rooyen. Derick Appel from Theewaterskloof was elected unopposed as provincial treasurer to complete the top five leadership.

The party has managed to wrest control from the DA in a number of municipalities through coalitions, and judging by the new executive, more work will be done by the party outside Cape Town as it stands better chances there of regaining electoral support.

The final list of the provincial executive committee included Dugmore and many others who lost in the provincial conference, proving that it was not a winner-takes-all affair.

‘Demobilise and unite’

“When we come out of this conference we must demobilise and unite,” Tyhalisisu said. “Obviously, before the conference we campaigned and belonged to lobby groups, but that must come to an end as we leave the conference. It is us, the leadership, that must tell those whom we were with that it ends here and that this elected leadership is the leadership for all.”

He said that in working with the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) deployees, they would make sure that those who came from the “outside” – including but not limited to national leaders – did not have influence.

He said this on the back of the scathing political report delivered by Kalako which painted a picture of a provincial leadership structure that was highly factionalised during its term over the past four years. He said the factionalism was sponsored and funded by national leaders whom he did not name.

In the 2009 general elections, the ANC lost the Western Cape to the DA and has not regained it. The ANC won only 31% of the provincial vote in 2009 and fell to 28% in the 2019 elections.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Mbalula warns Western Cape ANC: ‘You are fighting for nothing and yet the power is gone’

“It is going to be a long road and not an event to dismantle this, as elective processes always produce caucuses and some become factions,” Tyhalisisu said.

The party’s organisational report noted that the state of the organisation had sharply deteriorated, leading to a loss of confidence by the electorate.

“Factions have found comfort in the organisation, and old tendencies continued unabated to the extent of collapsing the organisational election structures, thereby undermining the engine of the election machinery,” reads Kalako’s report. 

It further said that to date the party had more than 30,000 provincial members in good standing.

The Dullah Omar and Southern Cape regions are yet to hold their regional conferences and Tyhalisisu said he wants this to be a thing of the past by next month. Another challenge is that the ANC leagues (veterans’, youth and women’s leagues) were led by task teams.

“We cannot enter into an election campaign with temporary structures,” he said. “The other task is to convene an election strategy workshop to prepare the work of the elections – we must have a strategy of how to reduce the DA’s support to less than 50% in the upcoming elections.” DM

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