Durban - What a turbulent week it’s been for the ANC. From President Jacob Zuma and the National Prosecuting Authority appealing the High Court’s ruling that the decision to withdraw charges against Zuma was irrational, to the political divisions plaguing the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, it is becoming more apparent that the courts have become the new battleground for resolving major political issues.
To add to the growing list of issues plaguing the party, the question of when Zuma will establish the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture continues to hang about like an ominous storm cloud.
As party divisions, especially in KZN, become highlighted on public platforms, a radical intervention is needed – with suggestions being made that the national executive committee (NEC) could appoint a task team to try to resolve the issues.
One option the task team may explore is to deploy some of the province’s former leaders (now serving in the senior leadership) to the province to provide much-needed stability.
In the aftermath of the Pietermaritzburg High Court’s judgment annulling the outcomes of the province’s 2015 provincial elective conference, Thabani Khumalo, a political analyst, says the ANC NEC’s possible solution to the impasse lies in removing both Sihle Zikalala and Senzo Mchunu as leaders.
This, according to Khumalo, was because both camps had been tainted by the stigma of factionalism, and installing a provincial task team (PTT) to unite the province would address the challenge of the leadership vacuum that had emerged.
“Unity in the province will not be achieved if there is still contestation between Mchunu and Zikalala, and even when the party feels it has handled the situation and is ready to allow a conference to go ahead, Mchunu and Zikalala should not be allowed to contest,” said Khumalo.
His controversial suggestion is that the feuding duo should be redeployed outside of the province.
The stand-off between Mchunu and Zikalala supporters was exacerbated by the 2015 provincial conference. In the aftermath, 43 pro-Senzo Mchunu branches, led by Abaqulusi Municipality councillor Lawrence Dube, went to court in June 2016 to bid for a rerun of the conference following irregularities in the lead-up to the sitting of the conference.
Among the 43 branches’ grievances was that voters rolls had been manipulated to give an “unfair advantage” to Zikalala’s camp and branches that had backed him and that delegates from Mchunu-aligned branches had been blocked from attending the conference to vote.
Khumalo added that if the ANC could not accommodate experienced leaders like Zweli Mkhize and Jeff Radebe in its senior leadership, then the party should not hesitate in deploying these leaders to KZN to unite the province.
The Pietermaritzburg High Court judgment this week, Khumalo said, was both disappointing and devastating because it revealed that the ANC had not shown decisive leadership and the lack of leadership had created the crisis.
“(Another example of poor leadership was) seen with the disputes around the legitimacy of the eThekwini regional conference in 2015. Those who were aggrieved disputed the conference within the prescript of the ANC’s constitution and sent their grievances to the party secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, immediately after the conference.
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“Mantashe came down to KwaZulu-Natal and he cancelled the outcome of that conference based on the facts presented.
“Mantashe was not happy for the 2015 provincial elective conference to go ahead with the absence of the eThekwini region, but the conference went ahead regardless of the concerns,” Khumalo said.
He said the 43 aggrieved branches, who had supported Senzo Mchunu during the 2015 provincial conference, had raised their concerns but these had been ignored.
“In their initial submissions to the High Court, the 43 branches said ANC president Jacob Zuma (had) met them and promised to come back with solutions but these did not materialise.
“They were forced to go outside the structures of the ANC because nobody was entertaining them, so if this judgment is one of the signs that the ANC needs to do soul-searching then, yes, the court’s decision is disappointing in the sense that it reveals the weakness of the ANC leadership,” said Khumalo.
He said the decision revealed the lack of transformation within the ANC stemmed from the fact that the party operated with one structure as a party that ran government, but the party should have transformed itself from a liberation movement to a modern-day party.
“There is a lack of understanding of the boundaries between the political leadership and the political administration which is weak because it’s run by these politicians who have narrow interests. In the end, the politicians tasked with running the administration end up manipulating the processes to achieve their own aims and this leads to manipulation and ousting of membership in good standing in the branches,” said Khumalo.
He said if the ANC had a good political administration structure, the party would not be plagued with the problems it currently faces, including the KZN leadership battle ending up in court.
Khumalo said the court judgment should be a lesson to the ruling party to clean up its processes, which includes how it makes decisions at a leadership level.
He said the ANC in KZN wanted to appeal this week’s ruling but this would not help the party because the NEC had allowed the situation to spiral out of control and the NEC should now assert its authority and quash any ambitions to appeal the judgment.
“There have always been differences of opinion within the ANC and those are situations that require strong leadership,” said Khumalo.
Although the judgment could have wider implications for other provinces and the national conference, Gauteng ANC spokesperson Nkenke Kekana declined to comment on the judgment.
“The NEC must respond. They said they are studying the judgment and once they have studied the judgment they will then respond and we are waiting for them to respond. We have absolutely no business talking about what is happening in KZN.
“Whatever implications the judgment has, it is really up to the ANC at a national level to respond,” Kekana said.
As the ANC deals with the apparent defiance from its KZN PEC, President Jacob Zuma has also been criticised for delaying the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, following recommendations from former public protector Thuli Madonsela contained in her state capture report.
Zweli Mkhize, speaking in Durban on Tuesday, said it was a matter of people’s faith whether the president would establish the commission or not.
“We don’t have that lack of faith, we know the president is going to do it. But, what is missing is that the president every now and again will give us an update to say that he’s busy with the terms of reference and what are the legal issues that have led to delays.
“Lawyers have different views (on the matter), so there has been quite a lot of engagement with the lawyers. I don’t want to pretend to be a spokesperson of the Presidency and say where the issues are stuck,” Mkhize said.
“The president has been working on the terms of reference for a while,” he added.
“I can imagine, and this is my own speculation, that the lawyers feel they need to be very careful that they don’t fall foul of the law.”
He said the lawyers could be taking their time because they were dealing with the issue of the review and yet they wanted to prepare for a commission which must ostensibly investigate the same issue.
He said it was not a simple matter to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry because there were various legal issues involved that might be delaying the process.
As for the decision to withdraw charges against Zuma, the president will rely on the same arguments presented in the High Court which, in the main, rely on his claim that the courts should not interfere in the decisions of the prosecuting authority.
The DA is expected to oppose the matter. The fallout over the last six days’ events is sure to linger and have an impact on the party beyond the December elective conference.