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KwaZulu-Natal Zuptoids scramble to marry law with politics after court ruling

CAPE TOWN — There’s only one word to describe the KwaZulu-Natal court-induced ANC crisis; chaos. With it’s incumbent provincial executive committee and thus the provincial cabinet declared legally invalid by dint of a flawed party electoral process earlier this year, it’s every collective for itself, whether it be Youth League, the Women’s League or the traditionalist and reformist factions. While the ANC’s national executive committee dithers on a workable date and appeals to the losing incumbent provincial Zuptoids not to appeal the court ruling until it can intervene, everyone, it seems has their own ideas about how to counter the reformist victory. The reformists are considering another court action forcing the incumbents to relinquish power in the absence of a legal appeal. It’s all about timing and it’s all about the December ANC elective conference where KwaZulu-Natal holds enormous sway in helping the Zuptoids stay at the helm and endorsing Msholozi’s preferred candidate, his ex- wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for party and hopefully, country president. This story has legs, as we say in the game. It may not adhere to the proper definition of ‘Ground Zero” for the ANC, but you get the general idea. The below article was first published on Daily Maverick. – Chris Bateman

By Carien du Plessis

It was clear that the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal leadership was on the warpath following last Tuesday’s court judgment. The ANC’s Women’s League, Youth League and Veterans’ league, as well as some regional leaders, gathered for a press conference on Wednesday to announce that the judgment – which declared the 2015 provincial conference unlawful and void – should be appealed.

The leagues said the party’s provincial executive committee (PEC) should defy any attempt by the national executive committee (NEC) to keep it from appealing the judgment.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala sits next to Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe at the KwaZulu-Natal Growth Coalition Workshop banquet.

Provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala himself told the media that the province would look to appeal the judgment, but he has not as yet actually committed to this course of action in a press conference. So far, the province has been getting the leagues to broadcast the things disciplined ANC cadres would not be able to say in public, such as declarations that former African Union chairperson and soon-to-be MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma should become party president in December.

The December party presidential election is what most of the fighting around this court case is about in the first place.

After the court declared the November 2015 conference where the current PEC was elected unlawful and void, the PEC effectively continued working, waiting for the NEC to meet and decide. A meeting of the NEC was scheduled for the end of September, and then moved to early this week, but then eventually back by a few days to Friday– possibly to allow President Jacob Zuma to return from New York where he is attending the UN General Assembly (although if he had his way, he’d probably have postponed any trips now till after December), and perhaps also to tend to a number of other, similar cases that have been brought to court in the Eastern Cape and North West.

Already it’s clear that there will be, at least, a robust debate within the divided NEC about the fate of KwaZulu-Natal.

ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe last week told the KwaZulu-Natal leadership not to make any decisions on an appeal before the NEC had met. There was talk about the PEC being disbanded and replaced by a task team, much in the same way the Free State leadership was dealt with before the party’s 2012 Mangaung conference. This could not, however, happen without the support of the NEC.

The same Mantashe, however, warned at a rally in Nyanga over the weekend against the “temptation to implode the ANC from within” – possibly an oblique reference to those who brought the court case. Disarray in KwaZulu-Natal, the province with the largest delegation to the ANC’s national conference, suits those who oppose Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign for president because the province earlier appeared to be strongly united behind her, partly as a result of President Jacob Zuma’s apparent endorsement.

On Friday during a visit to the province, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, who has also done a lot of official and unofficial organising for the party and supported the current PEC, said they could appeal if they wanted to.

If you look at the judgment, there are many loopholes. If the PEC doesn’t appeal, who will do it?” he said. “They are nullified but they must stand up to what they believe they should do to protect the integrity of the ANC.”

Those branches that won the court judgment are, however, set to step up their campaign this week to get the PEC disbanded.

About 261 branch members gathered in Durban on Sunday and released a declaration saying they supported the court finding that nullified the election of the PEC:

The ANC in KZN is visited by high levels of ill-discipline, arrogance, internal divisions, weak and fraudulent branches and lack of credible leaders,” the statement read.

They asked the NEC, which was implicated in allowing the flawed 2015 conference to go ahead, to “redeem itself” by appointing a provincial task team to “prepare for the whole organisational renewal process”.

Like Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in his recent speeches on the presidential campaign trail, they focused on the 2019 general election, when it is feared that the party might drop to below 50% with Dlamini-Zuma at the helm.

Supporters of Ramaphosa, who enjoys a slightly wider appeal, have used this issue of national elections in his campaign too.

A provincial task team “will help to ensure decisive and united election victory towards 2019 national elections, not only in our province but the country as a whole”, the statement read.

It is also understood that the branch members would not just stand by and watch should an appeal go ahead. They are likely to apply to court that its original order be enforced immediately – and the PEC’s work halted – while any possible appeal is heard. An appeal could, however, take a long time, and such a step could wreak havoc on the province’s preparations for – and attendance of – the national conference in December.

This could force the NEC to disband the PEC before the conference anyway, despite any possible appeal.

Former KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson and premier Senzo Mchunu, who spoke at the meeting of the branch members, appeared to focus on the December campaign itself. He said right now the main issue for him was pursuing the “unity agenda” in KwaZulu-Natal, as this recent court case was unprecedented in the province.

We must try to make KwaZulu-Natal as stable as possible, free from dysfunction, and make sure that we work,” he said.

Mchunu is considered to be one of the lead campaigners on Ramaphosa’s campaign, but he denied that the deputy president was prevented from campaigning in the province by the PEC.

He said Ramaphosa didn’t need permission to come to KwaZulu-Natal, following unhappiness by the PEC as Ramaphosa a few months earlier addressed a local cadres’ forum without informing provincial leaders.

Cyril doesn’t have to ask for favours from the PEC, that is not the issue from the campaign,” he said.

Mchunu did, however, take issue with the fact that the leagues at their Wednesday press conference said he was using the branches to go to court. “It is an insult,” Mchunu said.

He told Daily Maverick the branches represented a number of ANC members and “you defame people, you insult them, you attack their integrity and dignity by saying these things”.

President Jacob Zuma with KZN Premier Willies Mchunu attend the 6th Annual Matomela celebrations on 8 October 2016.

ANC deputy chairperson and current KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Willies Mchunu told a gathering in Mpumalanga over the weekend that the PEC in a closed meeting also made the league apologise for attacking the NEC for saying the PEC should not appeal the finding as yet. There has been no public apology, however.

The ANC Youth League provincial secretary Thanduxolo Sabela was not available for comment.

Meanwhile, ANC MP Makhosi Khoza’s disciplinary case was postponed after neither she nor her legal representative showed up for her hearing on Sunday. There is speculation that, should the court order be enforced, decisions made by the PEC, such as the one on her disciplinary case, will become invalid.

Khoza was charged after being repeatedly outspoken about Zuma’s leadership and voting against him in Parliament’s recent vote of no confidence.

  • Jill of all trades but really, mistress of none, Carien du Plessis has of late been a political tourist chasing elections and summits in various parts of the world, especially in Africa. After spending her student days at political rallies in South Africa right through the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, and after an extended working holiday in London, Carien started working for newspapers full-time in 2003. She’s pretty much had her share of reporting on South African politics, attending gatherings and attracting trolls, but still finds herself attracted to it like a moth to a veld fire. Her ultimate ambition in life is to become a travelling chocolate writer of international fame. Her article was republished with permission from the Daily Maverick.
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