Durban - Bheki Cele, one of the key drivers of the campaign that delivered Jacob Zuma the presidency of the ANC at the party’s Polokwane conference in 2007, appears to be in political decline.
Five years ago, Cele was overwhelmingly elected on to the party’s national executive committee (NEC) and was then made South Africa’s police commissioner.
Now, in the run-up to the ANC elective conference in Mangaung next month, the man who was once South Africa’s most powerful policeman did
not even get nominated by his Lamontville ward 74 branch and the eThekwini region for a position on the executive committee.
At the weekend ward 74 branch, which has faced several problems trying to get a quorum to hold a nomination meeting, eventually managed to hold a meeting and elect a new leadership.
Cele’s name was not among them. This does not mean he has been totally ruled out of an executive committee position, as other regions and branches could still nominate him.
However, political observers have warned that failure to be nominated by his branch and the region where he was once chairman is symbolically significant and points to the decline in his political fortune.
“It means that five years down the line, he has lost his massive political influence. It is a combination of factors, including the Richard Mdluli report which linked him to moves to oust Zuma and his firing as the police commissioner.
“These have tarnished his image and he is now politically neutralised and an ordinary ANC member,” said KZN political analyst Nkosinathi Mazibuko.
Mdluli, a controversial former head of police crime intelligence, produced a “ground cover” intelligence report which suggested that Cele was part of a team, allegedly led by Housing Minister Tokyo Sexwale, seeking to have Zuma ousted as ANC president.
However, a leading member of the eThekwini ANC regional executive, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was surprised by Cele’s exclusion.
“The region encouraged branches to nominate all those members who were already serving in the NEC, including comrade Bheki Cele who was originally on the NEC but had to re-sign because of his appointment as the police commissioner,” said the regional executive committee member.
Cele’s spokesman Vuyo Mkhize, said Cele had not attended the weekend branch meeting in Lamontville as he did not want to be “a factor” or involved in the problems of the branch.
“But if the region is comfortable with that position [his not being nominated] and if this is a reflection of sentiments of members on the ground, Cele accepts that as the will of the general members of the region.
“But ultimately, the measure of what the ordinary members of the ANC think about his contribution in the past and his future contribution, will be determined by the delegates in Mangaung,” said Mkhize. - The Mercury