ANC’s ‘chief dis­rupter’ un­bowed

Andile Lungisa fears for his life af­ter the chaotic East­ern Cape party elec­tion, but won’t back down

Mail & Guardian - - News - Go­van Whit­tles

ANC mem­bers in the East Lon­don City Hall spring to their feet when Andile Lungisa walks on to the stage. It is Sun­day morn­ing — the morn­ing af­ter the vi­o­lent chaos that the East­ern Cape pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence will now al­ways be re­mem­bered for.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple erupt into song, and Lungisa lifts a del­e­gate ac­cred­i­ta­tion tag high above his head, sway­ing from side to side with the rhythm. The crowd fol­lows his ex­am­ple — hun­dreds of hands wave ac­cred­i­ta­tion cards. Lungisa’s pop­u­lar­ity is un­de­ni­able.

Elected four years ago to the ANC’s pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (PEC), he has been la­belled “dis­rupter-in-chief” by the newly elected ANC East­ern Cape lead­er­ship. But he says he is be­ing tar­geted be­cause of his na­tional lead­er­ship pref­er­ences and his rep­u­ta­tion as a “hard­liner”.

“They are tar­get­ing in­di­vid­u­als which they view in the East­ern Cape as in­flu­en­tial. In East­ern Cape pol­i­tics, there is al­ways the Lungisa el­e­ment, who is a hard­liner on the left,” Lungisa told the Mail & Guardian this week.

He also re­vealed that he has opened a po­lice case and is con­cerned about be­ing as­sas­si­nated af­ter be­ing fol­lowed by “sus­pi­cious-look­ing” cars on more than one oc­ca­sion.

Seen as the chief lob­by­ist for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s ANC lead­er­ship cam­paign, Lungisa says he has man­aged to se­cure sup­port from two other re­gions that do not back party deputy pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

“They’ve tar­geted [us]; they know those are the in­di­vid­u­als who were part of the team which is co-or­di­nat­ing a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive in the East­ern Cape. If you try to deal with Andile’s in­tegrity and weaken Andile, no one will have dif­fer­ent think­ing in the East­ern Cape,” he says.

Lungisa speaks of him­self in the third per­son, just like Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers pres­i­dent Julius Malema — a re­minder that he was once deputy pres­i­dent of the ANC Youth League when Malema was its pres­i­dent.

“Some of us in the East­ern Cape come from the left; his­tor­i­cally, we’ve al­ways been part of the group in the youth league known as hard­lin­ers. In 2004, dur­ing the build-up to the youth league con­fer­ence … they blocked the group­ing. It was us from the East­ern Cape and Julius Malema from Lim­popo,” he says.

A few hours be­fore re­ceiv­ing a hero’s wel­come from the del­e­gates in the city hall, Lungisa had tried in the main ple­nary ses­sion to query the le­git­i­macy of the del­e­gates present at the con­fer­ence.

De­spite de­liv­er­ing the sup­port of three re­gions — Joe Gqabi, Amath­ole and Nel­son Man­dela Bay — the 39-year-old backed the los­ing can­di­date in the elec­tion of new pro­vin­cial party lead­ers: premier and now former chair­per­son Phu­mulo Ma­su­alle.

Newly elected East­ern Cape sec­re­tary Lu­lama Ngcukaitobi says the party will take dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against those who in­sti­gated the dis­rup­tion of the con­fer­ence.

“Where nec­es­sary, dis­ci­plinary steps will be taken, but we are seek­ing to unite the or­gan­i­sa­tion in the process,” says Ngcukaitobi. “The [city hall rally] is part of the fac­tions that are or­gan­ised out­side of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. It’s not an or­ganic re­bel­lion; it is well or­gan­ised and re­sourced and the East­ern Cape gov­ern­ment is used to spon­sor such ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Lungisa brushes this off, and still re­fuses to recog­nise the le­git­i­macy of the new PEC’s elec­tion. He says it is not the first time he has thrown his weight be­hind the un­der­dog. He is a rebel, he says — “the wild kind of na­tive that would rather die on my feet be­fore liv­ing on my knees”.

“I al­ways sup­port the weak. I don’t sup­port the strong. [In] 2007, I sup­ported then deputy pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma be­cause I viewed him as be­ing vic­timised … Now, I sup­port com­rade Nkosazana be­cause she is be­ing vic­timised, be­ing in­sulted by those who own the means of pro­duc­tion,” Lungisa says.

“The cur­rent deputy pres­i­dent is stronger be­cause he’s sup­ported by white monopoly cap­i­tal, by its whole com­mu­nity. He is stronger and is a bil­lion­aire. NDZ has a strong char­ac­ter but I’m sim­ply say­ing: she’s be­ing at­tacked,” he adds.

This year marks Lungisa’s 21st year in a lead­er­ship po­si­tion, he told the M&G. His first elected po­si­tion was as chair­per­son of the Congress of South African Stu­dents branch in Mthatha in 1996. He also chaired the South African Youth Coun­cil and the Pan African Youth Union.

He was also ap­pointed chair­per­son of the Na­tional Youth Devel­op­ment Agency in 2009. In 2013 he was ar­rested and charged with fraud and money laun­der­ing over a “fake” R Kelly con­cert.

Lungisa’s en­ter­tain­ment com­pany had re­ceived R2.5-mil­lion from the sports and re­cre­ation depart­ment to host a con­cert by the R&B singer that never ma­te­ri­alised. In Oc­to­ber 2016 the charges against him were with­drawn.

He also was al­most elected as chair­per­son of the ANC’s Nel­son Man­dela Bay re­gion ear­lier this year, de­spite warn­ings by the party’s sec­re­tary gen­eral that he was not el­i­gi­ble.

Zuma flew to Port El­iz­a­beth to en­dorse Lungisa’s elec­tion, and was seated next to him be­fore say­ing he was a “good leader”. The elec­tion was nul­li­fied and Lungisa was forced to re­sign less than a week later.

But Lungisa still holds Zuma in high re­gard. “The pres­i­dent is do­ing very well; that is why we sup­port him in the East­ern Cape. Even the in­vest­ment we re­ceived as the East­ern Cape un­der pres­i­dent Zuma is big­ger than un­der pres­i­dent Mbeki and pres­i­dent Man­dela,” he says.

Lungisa re­mains up­beat about his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. He has not ac­cepted the con­fer­ence’s out­come, which ex­cluded him from the PEC, and has big plans for the prov­ince.

“I think we should con­sol­i­date the East­ern Cape and make it the agri­cul­tural hub of South Africa,” he de­clares.

“My goal is to re­po­si­tion the East­ern Cape as the mother of food pro­duc­tion, be­cause even the old Ban­tus­tans sur­vived through agri­cul­ture. We’ve got arable land.”

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