Plan to oust KZN premier foiled, but di­vi­sions re­main

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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.

Senzo Mchunu

No­musa Dube-Ncube

Sihle Zikalala

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