Zikalala sets his gaze on the NDZ prize

Mail & Guardian - - News - Paddy Harper

ANC KwaZulu-Natal chair­per­son Sihle Zikalala looks rather re­laxed for a man fac­ing a high court challenge to his elec­tion as he out­lines the path of the rul­ing party’s largest province to De­cem­ber’s elec­tive con­fer­ence.

Zikalala, one of pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s staunch­est — and most in­flu­en­tial — back­ers, will be lead­ing the charge to elect her whether the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg high court is­sues a declara­tory or­der forc­ing him and his pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (PEC) out of of­fice or not.

Last week­end Zikalala (44) was elected as del­e­gate num­ber one for the Matthews Meyiwa ANC branch in ward 11, Nd­wedwe, a peri-ur­ban area to the north of Dur­ban that falls un­der the greater KwaDukuza re­gion, where he cut his po­lit­i­cal teeth in the early 1990s.

As such, the for­mer ANC Youth League sec­re­tary gen­eral is guar­an­teed at the very least a vote at the con­fer­ence and the space to take for­ward the Dlamini-Zuma “lead­er­ship per­spec­tive” from the floor at Nas­rec in Jo­han­nes­burg on De­cem­ber 16.

Two other PEC mem­bers, spokesper­son Mdu­miseni Ntuli and Grey­town mayor Bheki Mtolo, were also elected as num­ber one del­e­gates by their re­spec­tive branches last week­end. The rest are ex­pected to be nom­i­nated when their branch gen­eral meet­ings sit on Satur­day and Sun­day.

Zikalala and his PEC have ap­pealed against the judg­ment declar­ing the Novem­ber 2015 pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence — and their elec­tion — un­law­ful and void. They have also op­posed the ap­pli­ca­tion by ANC coun­cil­lor Lawrence Dube and other branch mem­bers loyal to for­mer chair­per­son Senzo Mchunu for a declara­tory or­der to en­force the judg­ment.

‘’There is an ap­peal on the process go­ing on and a second process around whether the de­ci­sion of the court must be im­ple­mented now or not. Those are go­ing to court,’’ Zikalala said in an in­ter­view with the Mail & Guardian this week.

“Those will be con­cluded … We are branch del­e­gates, most of us. We are not fix­ated by pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship po­si­tions. We have been in the or­gan­i­sa­tion long before we be­came pro­vin­cial lead­ers.”

Zikalala con­firmed KwaZu­luNatal’s sup­port for a Dlamini-Zuma pres­i­dency, say­ing that she was the one can­di­date who had ful­filled all the lead­er­ship re­quire­ments to take the ANC for­ward af­ter De­cem­ber.

“KwaZulu-Natal is quite clear. We will sup­port a can­di­date who has the ca­pac­ity to en­sure that there is unity in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, who can rise above fac­tions and who is firm in prin­ci­ple and who, most im­por­tantly, is not go­ing to wa­ver on rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion. There is only one per­son and that is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,” he said.

In 2007 at the ANC’s Polok­wane con­fer­ence, Zikalala led the drive from the floor to stop elec­tronic vot­ing and was one of the most vo­cal op­po­nents of then-pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki’s bid for a third term as party pres­i­dent. Dlamini-Zuma was Mbeki’s run­ning mate as deputy.

Un­like most lead­ers who backed Pres­i­dent Jacob Zuma against Mbeki in 2007, Zikalala re­mains a firm Zuma de­fender.

Zikalala sees no con­tra­dic­tion in sup­port­ing Dlamini-Zuma for the pres­i­dency now.

“She stood as deputy pres­i­dent and she could not be elected. One rea­son why she is so rel­e­vant is that many peo­ple af­ter that who were not elected ei­ther left or be­came dis­il­lu­sioned. She re­mained within the or­gan­i­sa­tional pro­grammes and is not in the or­gan­i­sa­tion for fac­tions. When other min­is­ters re­signed when Thabo Mbeki was re­called, Nkosazana re­mained. She is very firm and prin­ci­pled, a per­son with courage,” he said.

Zikalala’s im­por­tance to the Dlamini-Zuma cam­paign can­not be overem­pha­sised: as chair­per­son of a province with more than 800 branches, he com­mands the sup­port of the largest vot­ing bloc at the con­fer­ence. He has also been at the cen­tre of the lob­by­ing on her be­half with prov­inces in­clud­ing Mpumalanga, the Free State and Gaut­eng.

Zikalala is al­ready KwaZu­luNatal’s de facto pre­mier, driv­ing rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and mar­shalling the province be­hind Dlamini-Zuma, whereas the ail­ing in­cum­bent, Wil­lies Mchunu, plays a more cer­e­mo­nial role. Zikalala is ex­pected to be ap­pointed pre­mier for­mally if Dlamini-Zuma wins.

Zikalala said be­tween now and De­cem­ber the province would hold work­shops, fo­rums and dis­cus­sions, and a pro­vin­cial gen­eral coun­cil, to sharpen its po­si­tions and its cadres.

He said the out­stand­ing branch meet­ings should be wrapped up ahead of the dead­line as there was “very lit­tle” in the way of com­plaints last week­end, which he said was a “great suc­cess”.

Turn­ing to rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, Zikalala said the pol­icy, which both he and Dlamini-Zuma cham­pion, was not about “tak­ing from those who pos­sess wealth and giv­ing it to oth­ers”.

“RET [rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion] is a means of trans­form­ing the sys­tem of the econ­omy so that it will help us to en­sure that those who were pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged are given more op­por­tu­ni­ties and as­sisted to get into the main­stream,” he said.

The pro­pos­als by KwaZulu-Natal to cut down on the amount of govern­ment busi­ness go­ing to In­dian and white peo­ple was not a pro­posed na­tional pol­icy, but an “ex­emp­tion” re­quested for the province be­cause of the cur­rent con­di­tions.

“We are not talk­ing about the whole coun­try. We are ask­ing for an ex­emp­tion for KwaZulu-Natal to en­sure that we favour de­mo­graph­ics. Eighty-seven per­cent of the peo­ple of KwaZulu-Natal are Africans. Africans were at the re­ceiv­ing end of apartheid. Even now, they have not ben­e­fited,” he said.

Zikalala is us­ing his role as KwaZulu-Natal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment MEC to push ahead with the con­ver­sion of the Ithala de­vel­op­ment bank into a state bank and through lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment projects that favour co-op­er­a­tives and small and medium en­ter­prises.

Zikalala said KwaZulu-Natal would not back a sug­gested “unity slate” with Dlamini-Zuma as deputy and Cyril Ramaphosa as pres­i­dent.

“That will not be sup­ported by us. She must stand as pres­i­dent,” he said.

Should Dlamini-Zuma not make the cut, she would “re­main in the NEC [na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee] as an ad­di­tional mem­ber”.

“We will re­main in the or­gan­i­sa­tion and work hard for the ANC to suc­ceed in its pro­grammes,” he said.

“Nkosazana is the only can­di­date of the seven who has made it clear that af­ter con­fer­ence, there must be no break­away. Who­ever is elected must lead the or­gan­i­sa­tion and unify it. Those who are not elected must also sup­port who is elected,” he said.

Zikalala said his role as chair­per­son be­tween now and De­cem­ber is to en­sure “en­gage­ment” with the prov­inces and that the pol­icy dis­cus­sions stay on track and are not de­railed by the lead­er­ship con­tes­ta­tion.

“We have a re­spon­si­bil­ity, all of us, and es­pe­cially the sec­re­taries and chairs, to en­sure that there is en­gage­ment and that we deal with is­sues and pri­or­i­ties pol­icy as we go. There must be an en­gage­ment on pol­i­tics and poli­cies and I am sure we will emerge with a clear di­rec­tion,” he said.

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