Zuma in fran­tic fight for key al­lies

Pres­i­dent stuns ANC by seek­ing sep­a­rate le­gal ad­vice on KZN


Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma hired his own lawyers, over and above those re­tained by his party, in a bid to pre­vent a po­lit­i­cal move by the ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee that would have been a ma­jor blow to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s am­bi­tion to suc­ceed him as party leader.

Zuma stunned the party’s se­nior lead­ers on Fri­day when he told them that he had sought his own le­gal opin­ion on whether the party can ap­peal against a court de­ci­sion that ef­fec­tively nul­li­fies the pro-Dlamini-Zuma KwaZulu-Natal pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

He took the ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sure de­spite the party, through its sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe, hav­ing al­ready hired lawyers to give le­gal ad­vice on the mat­ter.

The pres­i­dent’s move fur­ther in­di­cates high lev­els of dis­trust and ten­sion among the party’s top lead­er­ship ahead of the De­cem­ber na­tional con­fer­ence in which a new ANC pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee will be elected. The ten­sions have cas­caded to branch level, with mem­bers dif­fer­ing on whether Dlamini-Zuma or Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, among oth­ers, should be­come the next party leader.

As Zuma fought to keep the KwaZulu-Natal PEC in­tact on Fri­day, party mem­bers in the Eastern Cape were locked in a bit­ter dis­pute that re­sulted in their pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence be­ing de­layed by a day.

The Sunday Times can re­veal that Zuma came to Fri­day’s NEC meet­ing armed with a doc­u­ment that ad­vised that the KwaZu­luNatal PEC ap­peal against the court rul­ing which nul­li­fied its elec­tion — even though Man­tashe was in pos­ses­sion of a dif­fer­ent le­gal opin­ion, sought on be­half of the ANC.

The NEC over­ruled Zuma, dis­cour­ag­ing go­ing back to the court and in­stead sug­gest­ing that Zuma and the rest of the ANC top six meet with KwaZulu-Natal lead­ers from both sides of the di­vide to find a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion.

Zuma’s des­per­ate move is an at­tempt to save Dlamini-Zuma’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign as the KwaZulu-Natal PEC was at the fore­front of drumming up sup­port for her.

This comes as Zuma’s back­ers at the Eastern Cape pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence ap­peared to have been out­num­bered by Ramaphosa’s sup­port­ers in­side the ple­nary hall. A group aligned to the pro-Zuma fac­tion stormed the venue and dis­rupted pro­ceed­ings on Fri­day night. A pro-Dlamini-Zuma cam­paigner yes­ter­day vowed to dis­rupt the pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence if it was re­con­vened last night when it be­came clear her fac­tion would lose.

In the Free State, the lead­er­ship of pro­vin­cial chair­man Ace Ma­gashule, an­other Dlamini-Zuma backer, is be­ing chal­lenged af­ter a party mem­ber threat­ened to go to court if Ma­gashule’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee was not dis­banded by October 8 as its term has lapsed.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Lukhona Mn­guni said Zuma had a vested in­ter­est in the KwaZu­luNatal mat­ter be­cause he needed to be suc­ceeded by some­one who could ei­ther pro­tect him from pos­si­ble pros­e­cu­tion af­ter his pres­i­dency, or en­sure that his post-pres­i­dency lit­i­ga­tion is funded by the state — “some­one who is sort of sym­pa­thetic to his cause”.

Zuma’s le­gal opin­ion was com­piled by Ad­vo­cate Moses Mphaga SC of Makhubela At­tor­neys. The doc­u­ment lists him as a con­sul­tant in his ca­pac­ity as ANC pres­i­dent.

Zuma’s spokesman, Bon­gani Ngqu­lunga, re­ferred all ques­tions to Luthuli House, say­ing he did not com­ment on ANC mat­ters.

Man­tashe did not re­spond to a ques­tion on whether Zuma was man­dated by the party to get his le­gal opin­ion.

“You can get a sec­ond le­gal opin­ion on any mat­ter. The most im­por­tant thing is that those le­gal opin­ions agreed on ev­ery­thing ex­cept that the other did not give us any ad­vi­sory note to it. But on what should be ap­pealed and what is ap­peal­able, both of them agreed,” said Man­tashe.

The chaos in the Eastern Cape started soon af­ter the con­fer­ence was opened by chair­man Phu­mulo Ma­su­alle.

When the de­bate about cre­den­tials of del­e­gates present at the venue started, Ma­su­alle’s back­ers in­sisted that the con­fer­ence be ad­journed un­til a dis­pute over cre­den­tials of an ANC Youth League del­e­ga­tion was sorted.

Sources said del­e­gates loyal to pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary Os­car Mabuyane, who is chal­leng­ing Ma­su­alle for the chair­man­ship, re­fused. They in­sisted that cre­den­tials be sorted out and nom­i­na­tions go ahead.

Ma­su­alle is backed by the pro-DlaminiZuma group while Mabuyane has the sup­port of the Ramaphosa camp.

ANC NEC mem­ber Zizi Kodwa had to in­ter­vene in the tense closed ses­sion, al­low­ing for a short ad­journ­ment for sup­per.

When del­e­gates were mak­ing their way back to the venue, a pro-Zuma group stormed the meet­ing, lead­ing to its col­lapse.

The in­ci­dent has ig­nited fears that the same scenes could play them­selves out at the ANC na­tional elec­tive con­fer­ence.

ANC NEC mem­ber Lindiwe Zulu, who wit­nessed Fri­day’s chaos, said the in­ci­dent showed that the party needed to strengthen its ad­min­is­tra­tion and man­age­ment pro­cesses of con­fer­ences.

“This will not be al­lowed at the na­tional con­fer­ence,” she said.

By late yes­ter­day af­ter­noon na­tional and pro­vin­cial lead­ers were meet­ing be­hind closed doors to find a so­lu­tion to the im­passe.

Spec­u­la­tion was rife yes­ter­day that the Ma­su­alle group was con­sid­er­ing ap­proach­ing the courts in an at­tempt to in­ter­dict the con­fer­ence from tak­ing place.

But Ma­su­alle him­self, sources claimed, had hinted that he might not ac­cept nom­i­na­tion as it was clear that Mabuyane en­joyed ma­jor­ity sup­port.

But his sup­port­ers were hell­bent on mak­ing sure the con­fer­ence did not go ahead as Mabuyane’s vic­tory would con­sol­i­date Ramaphosa’s sup­port in the Eastern Cape.

NEC mem­bers who at­tended Fri­day’s meet­ing said this strat­egy was in line with the pro-Zuma group­ing’s plans to di­vide other prov­inces while fight­ing to save the KwaZulu-Natal PEC.

In­sid­ers said Zuma, when de­liv­er­ing his po­lit­i­cal over­view re­port on Fri­day, told the NEC that he be­lieved that the rul­ing ought to be ap­pealed in a bid to “teach those who take the ANC to court a les­son”.

An NEC mem­ber who at­tended the meet­ing said that while Zuma ded­i­cated his last po­lit­i­cal over­view to pro­mot­ing unity and speak­ing out against fac­tion­al­ism, he still pushed that his de­trac­tors in KwaZulu-Natal who won the court bid be “dealt with”.

A sec­ond NEC mem­ber told the Sunday Times that as a “pro­fes­sional lit­i­gant” Zuma wanted to rely on the courts to en­sure his al­lies in the pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship re­mained.

But the meet­ing de­cided that the ANC could not have the courts set­tle its po­lit­i­cal dis­putes and that uni­fy­ing lead­er­ship was needed.

A pro-Zuma NEC mem­ber said the meet­ing was cor­dial and not as heated as the pre­vi­ous one.

“The ad­vice of the se­nior coun­sel says the ANC can ap­peal be­cause the judge mis­in­ter­preted the con­sti­tu­tion of the ANC.

“It was not dis­cussed, it was just pre­sented. But we have taken a de­ci­sion as an NEC that we don’t want our is­sues to be re­solved by the courts — even if you’re go­ing to win it does not as­sist the ANC to be fight­ing in court,” said the NEC mem­ber.

An­other NEC mem­ber said na­tional lead­ers were com­pletely vested in ei­ther side of the di­vi­sion in the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. “The prob­lems in KwaZulu-Natal are hold­ing the na­tional con­fer­ence ran­som. If it is not sorted out the De­cem­ber con­fer­ence will be af­fected,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal pro­vin­cial chair­man Sihle Zikalala de­clined to com­ment.

Man­tashe said the top six will meet the PEC to­day and the rebels to­mor­row.

He said the NEC de­cided to “avoid be­ing le­gal­is­tic” to pre­vent an­other court ac­tion.

“The case is ap­peal­able but in the process we must get a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion.”

The spe­cially con­vened NEC meet­ing held last week had rec­om­mended that an in­clu­sive pro­vin­cial task team be es­tab­lished to over­see prepa­ra­tions for an­other elec­tive pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence.

Fri­day’s meet­ing, which was ini­tially sched­uled for three days, ended on its first day. The meet­ing de­cided that nom­i­na­tions for the De­cem­ber con­fer­ence should be of­fi­cially opened and branch gen­eral meet­ings need to start.

It also de­cided to de­fer a de­ci­sion on an ap­peal con­cern­ing an Umkhonto weSizwe Mil­i­tary Vet­er­ans As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence held this year that al­legedly in­cluded a num­ber of bo­gus del­e­gates.

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