KwaZulu-Natal ‘rebels’ reject Zuma’s olive branch
MK council warns of bid to scupper ANC elective conference
An intervention by the ANC’s top brass has done little to bridge divisions between warring factions in KwaZulu-Natal.
The so-called rebel group, which recently successfully challenged the outcome of the party’s 2015 provincial conference in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, is not convinced that national leaders have done enough to foster unity in KwaZulu-Natal.
The court ruled on September 12 that the conference which elected Sihle Zikalala as provincial chairperson, ousting Senzo Mchunu, was unlawful and void. The provincial executive committee (PEC) said it would appeal against the ruling.
A marathon meeting was held on Monday, during which senior ANC officials – with the exception of secretary-general Gwede Mantashe – met representatives of the group. It included councillor Lawrence Dube – who had been the face of the legal battle – as well as former economic development MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu and Mchunu.
City Press heard from several people who were in the meeting that President Jacob Zuma was the picture of humility. He apparently apologised profusely to the group for the role of the national executive committee (NEC) and other officials in sowing divisions in the province, by failing to adequately address the group’s grievances.
Zuma is said to have called for a political solution to the impasse which has deeply divided his home province, once his solid support base.
The rebel group, however, were not moved by the meeting or the olive branch Zuma extended. They said the NEC’s decision to endorse the PEC’s appeal against the high court ruling, and to allow the structure to continue operating, disregarded their position yet again.
Dube told City Press that, at the very least, they had expected the PEC to be dissolved pending the appeal. He said they would oppose the committee’s decision and seek an enforcement order from the high court.
“We are not going to lie down, they can forget about that. We want that execution order,” said Dube, who was an applicant in the case.
The officials were joined in the meeting by NEC members including Joe Phaahla, Nomvula Mokonyane and Mildred Oliphant.
The fight in KwaZulu-Natal has divided NEC members and become a proxy war between those who are for and against Zuma.
Supporters of the PEC have thrown their weight behind presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma while those in favour of the ousted Mchunu have criss-crossed the province to lobby for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
City Press understands that after Zuma’s lengthy apology, the group aired their grievances with the national leaders. They raised issues stemming from the 2015 provincial conference.
These included unhappiness with a provincial executive reshuffle which followed the conference and which saw the purging of those aligned to Mchunu, including Mabuyakhulu, former provincial agriculture MEC Cyril Xaba,
former education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni and former eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo.
Two people who were at the meeting told City Press that Mchunu arrived armed with a document, allegedly written by the PEC at the time of his ousting, outlining why he was being removed from the post. Mchunu lamented never having had the chance to defend himself against the allegations contained in the document.
The ANC’s officials said they would respond to the group, but did not say by when.
Some had expected the NEC to announce the PEC’s dissolution. However, its endorsement of the appeal led some party members to conclude that the rebels had run out of options and that those campaigning for Ramaphosa had suffered a setback. However, spokesperson for the group that took the PEC to court, Sthembiso Mshengu, dismissed this. He said reports that they had been threatened with expulsion from the ANC were untrue.
“We were warmly received and at no point were any threats made against us. From where we are, our mission to get the ANC back on track is moving without any major problems,” Mshengu said this week. He said Ramaphosa’s campaign had gained momentum and it would leave those who claimed to represent branches stunned. This was in reference to statements by some PEC members that the province was united behind Dlamini-Zuma.
TALK TO US What will it take for ANC members in the province to unite for the good of the party?
SMS us on 35697 using the keyword FACTIONS and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50 On Friday, former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe made light of being the keynote speaker at the two-day Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) national council conference, organised by a parallel structure to the MK Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA), despite the fact that the ANC did not sanction the event. “We have been invited and ... it is in our interest for the veterans to come together as one,” Motlanthe told City Press. And, he joked, “you can see there are no chairs flying”.
Among other ANC luminaries attending the event, held at Nasrec in Johannesburg, were Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, national council of provinces chairperson Thandi Modise, former social development minister Zola Skweyiya and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said he had been cautioned that attending the MK council conference would be seen as factional. “My retort was that I have never been factional in my life. I have always known and understood that the task of a leader is to do as much as possible to unite various views.”
Ramaphosa acknowledged Motlanthe, saying he was following in his footsteps because “his presence here does not mean he is factional”.
The more than 700 conference delegates heard speakers complain about the “bogus” conference in June, which saw Kebby Maphatsoe being elected the MKMVA’s president; about how President Jacob Zuma had been two-faced in endorsing that conference; and about how the ANC national working committee had insulted the ANC veterans and stalwarts, who had called for a national consultative conference to rescue the party from its loss of moral authority and electoral support.
On Friday, the conference resolved to “annul the bogus, illegitimate MKMVA conference” and wanted “charges pressed against those who embezzled ... by funding the now-annulled illegitimate conference” – including officials in the department of military veterans, which withdrew its funding for the council conference at the last minute, according to the council’s steering committee.
Steering committee member Siphiwe Nyanda said the decision to go ahead with that MKMVA conference appeared to be part of a plan to maintain the status quo in the ANC top leadership, and warned that some people might want to ensure that the December ANC conference, “where Zuma will step down and hand over to a new leader, would collapse”.
The conference’s commission on organisational renewal gave a damning report on the state of the ANC, saying the party’s branches were corrupt and “not dead, but sufficiently alive”.
The commission also noted that there was no political leadership: “The ANC is politically feeble compared with what we were at our peak.”
Delegates called for the ANC’s national executive committee to resign before December’s conference and for an interim committee to organise it.