KZN holds key for ANC

Post - - COMMENT - Bhekithemba R Mn­gomezulu is a Pro­fes­sor of Po­lit­i­cal Science and the Deputy Dean of Re­search at the Uni­ver­sity of the Western Cape. ● BHEKI MN­GOMEZULU

AS THE coun­try pre­pares for the 2019 elec­tions, the ANC has re­alised that its suc­cess is con­tin­gent upon unit­ing KwaZulu-Na­tal.

The de­ci­sion by the party’s top brass to hold its list con­fer­ence and stage its an­nual Jan­uary 8 State­ment in eThek­wini was a cal­cu­lated move. The ANC wants to use these events to bring unity within the party. It also tac­itly ad­mits KZN has a place in the party’s his­tory.

When the ANC was formed in 1912, John Dube was elected in ab­sen­tia to be its first leader. In 1952, dur­ing the De­fi­ance Cam­paign, iNkosi Al­bert Luthuli was asked to lead the ANC dur­ing tur­bu­lent times due to his lead­er­ship prow­ess.

Nel­son Man­dela was ap­pre­hended in How­ick. Af­ter his re­lease he came to KZN to re­port to his late lead­ers about the lat­est po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments in the coun­try. Man­dela also voted in KZN. This was a sym­bolic ges­ture show­ing his re­spect for ANC lead­ers like Dube, Seme, Luthuli and oth­ers.

The 2016 Local Gov­ern­ment Elec­tion (LGE), the 2017 ANC elec­tive con­fer­ence in Nas­rec and the uncer­e­mo­ni­ous de­par­ture of then Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma – cou­pled with in­tra-party squab­bles and killings, as well as sour re­la­tions within the Tri­par­tite Al­liance, has left the party in dis­ar­ray.

When Cyril Ramaphosa be­came pres­i­dent of the coun­try, the writ­ing was on the wall that un­less dras­tic mea­sures were taken, the ANC would face an uphill bat­tle in the 2019 elec­tions.

Luck­ily for the ANC, op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties have had prob­lems of their own.

The DA han­dled the He­len Zille and Pa­tri­cia de Lille is­sues badly. The party also showed dis­re­spect for its leader, Mmusi Maimane, on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. These in­ci­dents meant that de­spite its in­ter­nal prob­lems, the ANC would have no se­ri­ous op­po­nent.

How­ever, hav­ing learnt a les­son in the 2016 LGE, the ANC could not af­ford to be com­pla­cent.

Ramaphosa fre­quented KZN to put out the fires and tried to unite an ev­i­dently di­vided prov­ince.

The de­ci­sion by the party to stage its na­tional events in KZN should be un­der­stood within this con­text. KZN has re­mained the ANC’s big­gest prov­ince.

Even when Mpumalanga re­placed the East­ern Cape, KZN re­mained at the top in terms of ANC sup­port. There­fore, hold­ing these events in the prov­ince was a metic­u­lously thought­through de­ci­sion.

What is the fu­ture of pol­i­tics in KZN af­ter the 2019 elec­tions? Surely, any an­swer to this ques­tion would be pre­sump­tu­ous. But through a co­gent anal­y­sis of de­vel­op­ments thus far, one can make some in­formed pre­dic­tions.

Firstly, the ANC will def­i­nitely per­form bet­ter than it did in the 2016 LGE. But this does not mean that fac­tions have sub­sided.

Dis­grun­tled party mem­bers have made peace with the fact that Zuma could no longer be re­tained as South Africa’s pres­i­dent.

They have also ac­cepted that Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will not lead the ANC at least un­til the party’s next elec­tive con­fer­ence.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, some politi­cians are pri­mar­ily con­cerned with their own po­lit­i­cal sur­vival. They will put their weight be­hind the ANC’s cur­rent lead­er­ship.

Se­condly, op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties will strug­gle to top­ple the ANC. The IFP is the ob­vi­ous contender. How­ever, its per­for­mance will be con­tin­gent upon the pol­i­tics of the NFP.

The EFF ap­pears to be grad­u­ally gain­ing ground and re­ceiv­ing a good re­cep­tion among students at ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions. But be­cause these elec­tions are na­tional and pro­vin­cial, such sup­port will not nec­es­sar­ily trans­late into an im­proved EFF per­for­mance.

KZN has the largest In­dian pop­u­la­tion in the coun­try, but they are not or­gan­ised into a racial group­ing, and be­long to dif­fer­ent par­ties.

Even the Mi­nor­ity Front (MF) of the late Amic­hand Ra­jbansi and the Demo­cratic Lib­eral Congress (DLC) of Pa­trick Pillay lack num­bers. There­fore, In­di­ans have two op­tions. Firstly, they can rally be­hind the MF and the DLC and push an In­dian agenda.

While this would not be ideal in a Rain­bow Na­tion, it would be jus­ti­fi­able. Se­condly, they could join other po­lit­i­cal par­ties and rep­re­sent the In­dian voice within those par­ties. The EFF would not be their first op­tion, fol­low­ing the state­ments made by its leader, Malema, about In­di­ans.

The 2019 elec­tions are crit­i­cal. The ANC will be tested on whether it has re­cov­ered from the events of 2016-18. The ANC is aware of the dan­ger of un­der­min­ing its branches and the elec­torate.

The num­ber of po­lit­i­cal par­ties reg­is­tered with the IEC raises a se­ri­ous con­cern. Some will be “vote spoil­ers”. This might ne­ces­si­tate a coali­tion gov­ern­ment, for which South Africa is not yet ready!


The stat­ues of ANC lead­ers along­side the M4 high­way near Dur­ban North, mark­ing the party’s 107th an­niver­sary.

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