ANC KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) members aligned to Cyril Ramaphosa have offered an eleventh-hour concession ahead of next week’s provincial conference, agreeing that Sihle Zikalala should stand uncontested for the position of chairperson.
Several insiders told City Press this week that the group aligned to former provincial chairperson Senzo Mchunu is locked in negotiations, hoping to find consensus ahead of the much anticipated conference, set to begin on Friday.
They are willing to sacrifice their preferred candidate for the position, Mike Mabuyakhulu, if the other side will allow him to be deputy chairperson unopposed.
“We are talking about it,” said one source. “There will be engagements this weekend and right up until conference. We are saying let us stop dealing with contestation in the manner we have been in this province.
“The killings are too much. They are happening because of the negligence and factionalism of national executive committee (NEC) members. Our national leaders are not seeing to it that processes happen with integrity and then we fight among ourselves. Let us find each other because we have crucial elections next year which will require a united ANC,” one regional leader said.
“Let us avoid the winner-takes-all approach, because even in the regional conferences that have sat, you can’t say there is an outright winner,” he said.
The Mchunu faction initially wanted the provincial conference to be postponed to after next year’s elections, hoping to have enough time to consolidate branches in their favour. Having lost that fight they have been left with no option but to approach the bargaining table.
Ideally, the provincial leadership which emerges next weekend should be a mixed bag, representing both factions in the bitterly divided province.
Names which have been touted for the so-called unity slate include Mdumiseni Ntuli, Mzwandile Mkhwanazi, Ntombikayise Sibhidla, Mabuyakhulu and Zikalala.
However, some in the Zikalala faction say delegates must have their say, particularly regarding the top five positions.
“We won’t agree to an arranged leadership. We can maybe make a plan around additional provincial executive committee members, where we can say let us make sure everyone is accommodated, but we won’t impose officials on the province. There we are clear,” said a Zikalala ally.
On the Zikalala side, names expected to be prominent include Super Zuma, provincial premier Willies Mchunu, Mluleki Ndobe and Nomusa Dube.
ANC Youth League secretary-general in the province Thanduxolo Sabelo said discussions about putting together an ANC leadership in the province are still under way.
“We are talking. Nothing has been finalised yet. That said, we are clear as the youth league that Sihle is going to be re-elected chairperson of the ANC.”
This week’s conference will begin on the same day that former president Jacob Zuma will make his second appearance in the Durban High Court on charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering.
Provincial ANC leaders including Zikalala and youth league leaders all showed their support for Zuma when he made his first court appearance earlier this year.
It’s unclear whether the same show of force will be seen this week, as the conference will be held in Empangeni, 160km from Durban.
The province has been dogged by infighting since the 2015 provincial conference at which Zikalala was elected chairperson and Senzo Mchunu was left out in the cold.
Last year, the Pietermaritzburg High Court nullified the outcomes of that conference. The ANC NEC then established a provincial interim committee made up of both factions, led by Zikalala as coordinator and Mabuyakhulu as convener.
There have been a spate of suspected politically motivated murders during the ANC’s regional conferences in recent weeks. At least four people have been shot dead.
Mchunu’s office is yet to release the report of the Moerane Commission of Inquiry into political killings, which concluded its work last year.