Durban - After political setbacks in the past 10 elective regional conferences, allies of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa were at last able to score some consolation when they snatched the last region.
At the weekend they were able to scrape the barrel by grabbing all the five leadership positions of the Inkosi Bhambatha (Umzinyathi District).
The victory for Ramaphosa allies marked the end of an era for Lucky Moloi’s strong grip on the levers of political power in the region when his slate was defeated by one led by Ntombi Ngubane, a former leader of the regional structure of the ANC Women’s League.
Moloi, the husband of KZN agriculture and rural development MEC and KwaZulu-Natal ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) member Bongi Sithole-Moloi, was narrowly beaten by Ngubane.
Ngubane got 125 votes to Moloi’s 111 ending a three-year grip on power. Moloi’s turbulent reign started three years ago when he trounced current housing MEC Jomo Sibiya, one of the few KZN allies of Ramaphosa since the ANC’s elective conference in 2012 in Mangaung.
Those who know the dynamics of the region, anchored in the coal mining town of Dundee, claimed Ngubane is close to Sibiya and the latter endorsed her as he wanted his nemesis Lucky Moloi to be ousted to end the “Moloi dynasty in the region”.
“Jomo’s only endeavour has always been to defeat Lucky Moloi, hence he decided to work with Ngubane to do so,” said an ANC insider after the results were announced.
Another said: “Ngubane and Jomo are very close”, cementing the perception that the win is a major boost for the Ramaphosa faction after losing all the 10 other regions of the province to the RET forces who are yet to agree on their ANC's presidential candidate ahead of the December conference.
Ngubane laughed off claims that he was aligned with Sibiya and ultimately, Ramaphosa.
“I am not aware of the allegations, my brother,” Ngubane said when the Daily News asked her about allegiances.
Sibiya said he preferred not to entertain any further questions as there was a new leadership working hard to build unity.
“Anyone peddling such gossip is stretching it too far. Actually, this is laughable. Delegates, who had leadership preferences approached the conference with maturity. I respect the former leaders – all of them – equally. I will continue to do so. And I respect the new leaders – all of them equally. And I will never change,” Sibiya said.
The entire slate of Moloi lost the contest, as even the former mayor of Umvoti (Greytown) Thami Ngubane narrowly lost to Sinethemba Hadebe. Former regional secretary Bheki Lembede who was in Moloi’s corner, lost the position of regional secretary to Lucky Khumalo while Lungi Mabaso lost the position of deputy regional secretary to Siphelele Ngcobo.
As for regional treasurer, Linda Ngubane narrowly defeated Patrick Mawila – Moloi’s running mate.
Moloi, who after losing the regional conference, was elected in absentia to the provincial executive committee (PEC) of the SACP at a simultaneous conference in Durban, said he was humbled by his elevation.
“It’s a reflection of a higher confidence and recognition of quality in leadership … ” he said.
Other than ending “the reign of the Molois” in the region, Ngubane’s slate made history as it became the first region in KZN to get two women (the other one is Siphelele Ngcobo) elected to the regional top five in the current wave of 11 elective conferences.
The largely rural region in the north-western part of the province and dominated by the Ngubane clan includes Dundee, Greytown, Nquthu and the politically volatile uMsinga. All its four local municipalities and the district is governed by the IFP.