Zikalala sets his gaze on the NDZ prize
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.