Pietermaritzburg – Former health minister Zweli Mkhize upped the ante in his fight for the ANC presidency in December after he expressed willingness to accept the desires of some supporters for him to become the next head of state.
This became evident on Saturday at Willowfontein township in Pietermaritzburg, after he was overwhelmingly endorsed by some traditional leaders and a senior leader of the ANC in the eThekwini region.
The endorsement was unexpected as it happened during the umgcagco ceremony of Dedani Mkhize (Mkhize's son) and his wife, Sithokozile Mthembu.
From the beginning it was clear that beyond the traditional wedding ceremony there was something afoot as there was already a rumour that Mkhize would be endorsed by some traditional leaders – and he would accept this endorsement.
At about 4pm, after most of the ceremony’s formalities were done, the Mkhizes moved to the balcony of one of the main houses (facing a kraal) of the family, and the campaign got underway.
The programme was suddenly taken over by Ngizwe Mchunu, a former Ukhozi FM presenter, who is also a known supporter of former president Jacob Zuma. Mchunu repeatedly said “the Boers must move out of the way for Mkhize to rule”.
He then gave the podium to Susimpi Ngubane, a leader of Zulu regiments from the Msinga area in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Ngubane was short and to the point. He said the time had come for Mkhize, who was in full traditional Zulu attire, to rule the country, and for that he had their full support.
“We are repeating our call that this is the man who should be the president… They once asked us what we are going to do if he is charged, we said we will cross that river when we come to it. It is common that all leaders of KwaZulu-Natal to be charged whenever they have to become presidents,” Ngubane said.
BREAKING NEWS: Dr Zweli Mkhize has accepted the call by some traditional leaders to run for the ANC Presidency. He says it seems as if there are people who are trying find anything against him. Despite that, he says he will soldier despite the "campaign to smear him." pic.twitter.com/Hmbi3qCPl1— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) May 21, 2022
Ngubane’s call was echoed by another induna, Dumisani Cele, who leads Zulu regiments from all Gauteng hostels.
A weighty endorsement came from Inkosi Sifiso Ndelu of the Ndelu clan on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Ndelu said they endorse Mkhize as they believe he can help the country to overcome its current challenges, such as load shedding.
“We wish to give Khabazela the endorsement to lead this country; we can all see the damage in this country, all is wrong. We won’t live long under these tough living conditions,” Inkosi Ndelu said.
To ensure that the ANC’s voice was not missing, one of Mkhize’s trusted lobbyists in the eThekwini region, Siphiwe Blose, took the podium as well and said the campaign enjoys nationwide support in ANC branches.
PHOTOS: Amakhosi giving a symbolic leopard skin to Dr Zweli Mkhize after endorsing for the ANC Presidency. This happened at the umgcagco ceremony of Dedani Mkhize and Sithokozile Mthembu at Willowfontein township in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday. @DailyNewsSA pic.twitter.com/Z1bk5CYa15— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) May 21, 2022
“Two months have not elapsed since we had a meeting with Mpumalanga structures. Basically, I am saying, we are not doing this because we have a soft spot for Gcwabe (Mkhize), it is because of his track record,” Blose claimed.
Ahead of the fiercely contested eThekwini regional conference, Mkhize raised eyebrows when he was spotted in a last-minute campaign event of the eventual victor, Zandile Gumede. That prompted provincial chairperson, Sihle Zikalala, to indirectly take a swipe at him.
Mkhize, who by then was wearing a symbolic leopard skin that had been given to him by the traditional leaders as a sign of their endorsement, said he can’t defy a call from the people.
“I respect your wishes and what you are saying; what I can say is that structures of the ANC will meet and discuss it. When they come to us, we can say that we have always been available to work for the people as long as they are frustrated by poverty, inequality, unemployment, crime and the economy not in their hands. We see that as a call for us to continue to work for the community,” he said.
Mkhize then took the opportunity to speak about what he suggested was a campaign to eliminate him from the running. He said every day he had to answer suspicious questions from the media.
He had even been asked to answer questions about the political violence in Richmond in the 90s, and about tenders to do with the province’s controversial circumcision programme, where the device used was procured from Malaysia and he was then premier.
“Let the law take its course and investigators do their job. However, some of these things come up as a campaign, even if you answer some of the questions, go to court (to clear yourself), and new issues pop up.
"It has now become clear to us that there are some political leaders who are in cohort with big companies to unleash private investigators and journalists to go and look for anything they can get. Right today I have a long list of questions from journalists to answer,” Mkhize told the crowd that came to listen to him.