No chance of unity at na­tional con­fer­ence

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - NATASHA MARRIAN

The ANC now ap­pears to be com­pletely in­ca­pable of re­solv­ing its in­ter­nal dif­fer­ences. On Mon­day, a del­e­ga­tion of Eastern Cape lead­ers un­happy about the out­come of their pro­vin­cial congress met party of­fi­cials at na­tional level to ex­press con­cern about the way the con­fer­ence was run.

The con­fer­ence — a bloody, chair-throw­ing event — re­sulted in the elec­tion of Os­car Mabuyane as party pro­vin­cial chair­man.

On Thurs­day, the dis­grun­tled group that won a court ac­tion in which the KwaZulu-Natal pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence was ruled to be il­le­gal, again ap­proached the high court.

This time it was after the group sought the in­ter­ven­tion of the na­tional lead­er­ship for a so­lu­tion to the court judg­ment, which set aside the elec­tion of chair­man Sihle Zikalala and his lead­er­ship team. The na­tional of­fi­cials and na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) took a fac­tional ap­proach — driven by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma — to al­low Zikalala’s pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee to ap­peal against the judg­ment.

This re­sulted in the other group op­pos­ing the ap­peal and ask­ing the court to en­force its ear­lier judg­ment.

In court pa­pers, this group ar­gues that the na­tional con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber is of im­por­tance not just to the party but to the coun­try.

Hav­ing an il­le­gal pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee pre­sid­ing over nom­i­na­tions in the ANC’s largest prov­ince while it is ap­peal­ing against a judg­ment could ex­pose the na­tional con­fer­ence to le­gal chal­lenge. The court pa­pers in­clude an e-mail from ANC NEC mem­ber Enoch Godong­wana, stat­ing: “I have at­tended both NEC meet­ings that dealt with the KZN court rul­ing on the sta­tus of the pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence and its de­ci­sions.

“The court de­cided that both the con­fer­ence and its de­ci­sion are null and void. None of the meet­ings above agreed to ap­peal the de­ci­sion.

“We are in­formed by the me­dia that the former pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary of KZN, com­rade Su­per Zuma, says that the NEC agreed to ap­peal [against] the de­ci­sion of the court. Com­rade Su­per Zuma is not em­pow­ered to speak on be­half of the NEC.”

Godong­wana’s e-mail im­plies that the Zikalala-aligned pro­vin­cial com­mit­tee de­fied the NEC by ap­peal­ing against the judg­ment. And it did that be­cause Zuma him­self sanc­tioned the ap­peal.

It is strange that no one on the NEC thought to point out that Zuma was con­flicted on the mat­ter — be­cause he has openly en­dorsed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as his pre­ferred suc­ces­sor.

How the ANC of­fi­cials deal with the Eastern Cape mat­ter may again prove that the ANC is hope­lessly adrift as Zuma rides roughshod over the party to in­stall Dlamini-Zuma.

In the Eastern Cape mat­ter, some of the dis­grun­tled mem­bers back Dlamini-Zuma as pres­i­dent, while the lead­er­ship elected un­der Mabuyane backs Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

A leader who was part of the meet­ing with the na­tional of­fi­cials said it was odd that the dis­grun­tled group did not lodge an ap­peal with the of­fi­cials on the out­come of the con­fer­ence.

In­stead, they “raised con­cern” and ap­peared to want the of­fi­cials to lodge an ap­peal that could see the con­fer­ence out­come nul­li­fied.

The of­fi­cials took time to hear their side of events and then ques­tioned Mabuyane on the con­ven­ing of the con­fer­ence. Now Mabuyane’s op­po­nents say they are cer­tain the of­fi­cials will en­sure that the con­fer­ence is nul­li­fied.

The newly elected lead­er­ship, how­ever, can­not un­der­stand how a move to nul­lify the con­fer­ence can be jus­ti­fied. They say it was clear from the out­set that the los­ing group, aware of its nu­mer­i­cal dis­ad­van­tage, sought to col­lapse the con­fer­ence to pre­vent Mabuyane’s elec­tion.

They are now at­tempt­ing to use their fac­tional ad­van­tage to have the out­come of the con­fer­ence nul­li­fied — a move Zuma and his back­ers would sup­port. The top lead­er­ship’s han­dling of the dis­agree­ments be­fore the na­tional con­fer­ence shows there is lit­tle hope for a unity ini­tia­tive to suc­ceed. Fac­tions are poles apart — as are the top can­di­dates.

Dlamini-Zuma has in­her­ited the Zuma fac­tion’s in­fra­struc­ture in terms of its num­bers, but also its weak­nesses. This has re­sulted in her sup­port fall­ing, say in­sid­ers. Ramaphosa is be­ing framed as the man to re­store the party to its former glory, sup­ported by sec­tions of prov­inces across the coun­try.

When it comes down to the wire in De­cem­ber, will the lead­er­ship and con­fer­ence steer­ing com­mit­tee be able to set aside their fac­tional dif­fer­ences and pref­er­ences? Given their con­duct in the han­dling of pro­vin­cial dis­putes the an­swer is no. And the after­math will be un­char­tered and dan­ger­ous wa­ters for SA.

WILL THE LEAD­ER­SHIP AND CON­FER­ENCE STEER­ING COM­MIT­TEE BE ABLE TO SET ASIDE THEIR FAC­TIONAL DIF­FER­ENCES?

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