Plan to oust KZN premier foiled, but divisions remain
The ANC’s top leaders have foiled a plan to oust embattled KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu, warning the plotters that a major reshuffle in the provincial government would destabilise the province.
City Press has learnt that provincial ANC chairman Sihle Zikalala had last month tabled a proposal to the ANC’s top officials in Cape Town – and later, to an extended national working committee – to have Mchunu removed from his position, particularly because he had lost the party’s provincial chairmanship.
Three names were submitted in a presentation that sought permission from the top leadership to effect the change in the provincial government and have a new premier appointed.
Topping the list was transport MEC Willies Mchunu, Zikalala and the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nomusa Dube. ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa dismissed the plan as “baseless”. “The story is based on gossip and malice. It is baseless and a figment of the imagination,” he said on Friday.
However, ANC and alliance insiders said the governing party’s top six had punched holes in the presentation by KwaZulu-Natal leaders – and the same happened when they took it to the working committee.
“The idea was to make Sihle [Zikalala] an MEC at least, if anyone else gets a stamp of approval to be the next premier,” said an insider.
“However, the national executive committee was not happy with that. It was referred back to office bearers.”
Another ANC insider said that the problem with any suggestion to change leadership was the fact that the KwaZulu-Natal government was considered among the best run in the country, included with the Western Cape and Gauteng. “So it makes it difficult to build a case against Senzo. Secondly, only Senzo has the prerogative to reshuffle his executive, so they have to win him over. Lastly, only Luthuli House can fire the premier – and if the reasoning is not good, it is unlikely to succeed,” he explained. Meanwhile, Mchunu is said to be determined to serve his full term, despite Zikalala being unexpectedly elected as chairman during November’s rerun elective conference. The results sparked a revolt as Mchunu’s supporters accused Zikalala of manipulating processes to work in his favour – a claim he has since denied. Since then, party members have twice marched on the ANC’s provincial headquarters, with thousands showing their support for the embattled Mchunu, who was defeated. A reshuffle is unlikely to happen before elections, according to a senior ANC leader – adding that Mchunu remained a credible leader who would “never yield to any demand or be held to ransom”. There was concern that the ANC’s share of the vote would drop in the upcoming local government elections, partly because of “the intensified divisions since the provincial conference and certain regional conferences”, the official said. Another insider said that soon after Mchunu and his allies were defeated at the provincial conference, there were attempts to ask him to serve at national level “for the sake of peace in the province”, but he refused. Deep divisions continue to reign in Kwazulu-Natal, but leaders are expected to publicly show a force of unity in the lead-up to the local government elections. There is a strong belief that “tensions will reignite after the August 3 elections as the focus on campaigning for an ANC victory is forcing everyone to paper over the cracks”, added the insider.
Even the SA Communist Party (SACP), which had resolved not to participate in the ANC’s nomination process for councillors, has since gone back on its word.
At the time of withdrawing its participation, SACP provincial secretary Themba Mthembu said that a decision had been taken for party members to break off the fractious alliance with the ANC, as there was growing anti-communist sentiment in the governing party. “We met and had a discussion with the ANC leadership, and are back participating in the process,” he said.
However, he suggested that there were still a number of complaints about the process itself, even as the ANC list conferences were under way. Insiders said that it was still not smooth sailing, given that the imposition of candidates and the general “rigging of processes” continued unabated.
“All those who did not vote for Sihle are being frustrated because administratively, it is Sihle’s camp that holds the cards,” said an ANC activist.
It is understood that a number of sitting mayors who support Mchunu were placed far down the lists. This includes James Nxumalo, the mayor of the ANC’s strongest region, eThekwini Municipality – his name is said not to feature on the top 20.
Nxumalo, a key ally of SACP leader Blade Nzimande, was elected ANC regional chairman early last year.
There is a strong belief that last year’s conferences signalling Mchunu and his allies’ defeat did not reflect the will of the branches but were rigged.