Durban - Fresh from retaining his position as chairperson of the ANC’s Mzala Nxumalo (Zululand) region, Sbusiso Mhlongo says he is not beholden to any of the factions of the governing party which are vying for power and dominance ahead of the elective conference in December.
In an interview with the Daily News on Monday, Mhlongo said his loyalty lies with the ANC and its policies, not individuals. He added that he would make his stance on his leadership preferences known once the window has been formally opened and they have engaged with others within the party.
Over the weekend, the region held its elective conference in Vryheid, where Mhlongo’s slate defeated a slate led by Mpumelelo Zulu and former regional secretary Zakhele Buthelezi.
When the news of his victory started spreading, some lobbyists of Dr Zweli Mkhize claimed victory, saying he was their man. Equally, lobbyists of ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa in the province claimed him.
The latter’s claim is based on the fact that Mhlongo and the late Sipho Nkosi broke ranks with the province in 2017 and backed Ramaphosa when most regions were backing Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
“I am not a CR (Cyril Ramaphosa) person. I am not a RET (Radical Economic Transformation) person. I am also not a Zweli Mkhize person. I belong to the ANC, and I am loyal to its programmes. These are people's assumptions,” Mhlongo said when asked where he stood on the issue of the next national leadership of the governing party.
During the interview, Mhlongo also laid his cards on the table, listing critical issues the new leadership of the region had to urgently address. He was frank, saying that the party in the region was in disarray, and people had punished it during last year's local government elections by forcing it out of power in municipalities like uPhongolo and eDumbe, where they had been in power since 2011.
The party’s hopes of governing the Zululand District Municipality for the first time were dashed when it failed dismally in municipalities like Abaqulusi (Vryheid), Nongoma and Ulundi.
Mhlongo said the message was clear, voters have issues with them, and it is their duty to reconnect with voters and win their trust once more.
Candid, Mhlongo said they also suffered the electoral loss because of the perceived hostile stance towards King Misuzulu kaZwelithini, the anger of Shembe church members and the way former president Jacob Zuma was being treated.
“These issues greatly worked against us during the local government elections. The Shembe church is huge in KwaZulu-Natal. We have to go back to the Shembe church and explain ourselves regarding the issue of their dispute,” he said.
On King Misuzulu, Mhlongo said that as the region they were glad that the issue had been resolved, and Ramaphosa issued the certificate of recognition.
“At the conference, we took a resolution that we support the current King, Misuzulu kaZwelithini, and we are happy that the matter has been put to rest through the recognition by President Ramaphosa.”
On Zuma, he said they wished that all the judiciary processes were quickly resolved, adding that they supported the former president as an elder of the governing party. “Basically, we support Zuma,” he said.