Bat­tle for ANC’s soul shifts to prov­inces

Scene set for an­other fac­tion-driven five-year term for rul­ing party

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - TROYE LUND

fol­lowed by head­lines pre­dict­ing the re­moval of Marshoff and re­cently re-elected Lim­popo premier Sello Moloto.

The ques­tion is: How se­ri­ous is the po­ten­tial fall­out? Early in­di­ca­tions are that the at­tempts by Luthuli House to man­age the post-Polok­wane ten­sions and dis­sat­is­fac­tion that have in­ten­si­fied in the prov­inces since Mbeki’s re­call aren’t suc­ceed­ing, says Uni­ver­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Adam Habib. He says the ANC lead­er­ship is go­ing to have to make far “more overt” over­tures to heal the rifts or risk the di­vi­sions tak­ing on a mo­men­tum of their own.

Other po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts, such cen­tres of power – Mbeki lead­ing gov­ern­ment and Zuma lead­ing the party – a “sense of co­her­ence” will now start to pre­vail.

True, but the sit­u­a­tion may well have spi­ralled out of the con­trol of one cen­tre of power. For ex­am­ple, there’s lit­tle doubt NEC mem­bers re­cently de­ployed to the West­ern Cape to re­solve bit­ter in­fight­ing ahead of the pro­vin­cial party con­fer­ence un­der­es­ti­mated the sit­u­a­tion in the prov­ince. Once the NEC was sat­is­fied its in­ter­ven­tions had been suf­fi­cient for the pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence to take place, it gave the nod for its branch rep­re­sen­ta­tives to gather at the Cape Town Con­ven­tion Cen­tre to vote for a AS LET­TERS OF res­ig­na­tion from high pro­file na­tional and pro­vin­cial ANC leaders are mak­ing it very clear just what’s thought of the party’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee’s (NEC’s) de­ci­sion to re­call for­mer Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki, party head­quar­ters Luthuli House has de­ployed NEC mem­bers through­out South Africa’s nine prov­inces to ex­plain the re­call de­ci­sion in what is widely in­ter­preted as an es­ca­lat­ing bat­tle for the soul of the party ahead of next year’s elec­tion.

In the clear­est sign yet of an in­ner party bat­tle, sev­eral se­nior Mbeki acolytes have ei­ther stepped down from prime pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment po­si­tions or are be­ing pres­sured out of power by the new ANC lead­er­ship. While sym­pa­this­ers of Mbeki prom­ise to pro­vide an “al­ter­na­tive voice” (in­side the party) their op­po­nents say they’re pseudo-politi­cians who, without a fol­low­ing, ben­e­fited per­son­ally from Mbeki’s largesse.

It’s too soon to tell whether there’s any truth to that as­ser­tion. What’s clear is that re­peated calls for unity from Luthuli House and from newly elected Pres­i­dent Kgalema Mot­lanthe pro­vide a thin ve­neer of ci­vil­ity for a dirty fight. In fact, NEC mem­bers have pri­vately con­ceded there’s been a much wider set of high pro­file res­ig­na­tions than an­tic­i­pated. And while the pro­vin­cial struc­tures of the ANC are now be­ing urged to leave pre­miers (who’ve not yet been axed) in place un­til the 2009 elec­tion, newly elected pro­vin­cial leaders are hav­ing none of it. The Free State lead­er­ship is, con­trary to Luthuli House’s wishes, in­sis­tent on re­mov­ing the pro­vin­cial premier, Beatrice Marshoff.

Af­ter all, the ANC lead­er­ship did start the ball rolling by re­mov­ing West­ern Cape premier Ebrahim Ra­sool. East­ern Cape premier Nosimo Balindlela fol­lowed. Then the news that Gaut­eng premier Mb­haz­ima Shilowa had ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion – cit­ing the “un­just” way Mbeki had been re­called – was as Sipho Seepe, ar­gue the res­ig­na­tions and re­moval of cer­tain leaders is noth­ing more than the exit of peo­ple who were “made” by Mbeki – not politi­cians with any “real” sup­port. “Take for­mer Deputy Pres­i­dent Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. She didn’t even man­age to get on to the Women’s League list,” says Seepe. He says without the two new pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship.

Un­like all the other pro­vin­cial con­fer­ences, there was no vi­o­lence, head­line-grab­bing com­mo­tions or claims of in­tim­i­da­tion. How­ever, 86 of the 205 branches boy­cotted the con­fer­ence com­pletely. They held their own con­fer­ence in Langa. That group, which sup­ported Lerumo Kalako (an ally of Mbeki and ousted pro­vin­cial leader James Ngculu) for pro­vin­cial chair­man, al­leged that pre-con­fer­ence pro­cesses had de­lib­er­ately ex­cluded them and had been ma­nip­u­lated so that ANC pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary Mce­bisi Sk­wat­sha (pro-ANC party pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma) could be­come pro­vin­cial chair­man.

Once elected, Sk­wat­sha’s pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive moved swiftly to deal with the dis­sent. The move seemed to sow rather than con­tain dis­sent and re­mained un­re­solved at the time of writ­ing.

Fact is, even though the West­ern Cape is dif­fer­ent to SA’s other prov­inces – de­mo­graph­i­cally and po­lit­i­cally – cur­rent di­vi­sions are a re­flec­tion of the same di­vi­sions in other prov­inces.

While Habib and Seepe agree the ANC isn’t about to split due to such di­vi­sions, Seepe doesn’t dis­count deep rifts in a bat­tle for the soul of the party. “They (Mbeki and his al­lies) would rather find a way of com­ing back – or­ches­trat­ing a way to claim back the party they see as theirs,” says Seepe. He says that’s likely to hap­pen at branch and pro­vin­cial level. If that’s in­deed the case, the scene is set for an­other fac­tion-driven five-year term for the rul­ing party.

Unity calls not suc­ceed­ing. Adam Habib No real sup­port for Mbeki. Sipho Seepe

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