DURBAN - FORMER eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede emerged victorious as the ANC eThekwini chairperson last night at the party’s regional conference.
Gumede was up against current eThekwini speaker Thabani Nyawose for the position. Gumede’s slate made a clean sweep of the positions with the following other positions announced:
♦ Deputy chairperson Tembo Ntuli
♦ Secretary Musa Nciki,
♦ Deputy secretary Nkosenhle Madlala
♦ Treasurer Zoe Shabalala
The conference, at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Conference Centre, got off to a late start yesterday after disputes.
Tensions were palpable at the eagerly awaited elective conference, with rival factions trying to out-sing each other and booing nominees from the rival slate.
Security had also been heightened following rumours that some members were planning to disrupt the conference by storming the venue.
After much delay over the credentials, nominations were finally announced late yesterday afternoon. At issue for most of the weekend was the youth league and women’s league’s credentials. There was then debate over the regional task team (RTT). This was resolved when the steering committee decided that they would not vote.
Three nominees from the Gumede slate, including herself, accepted nominations through letters which were read out as they were not present at the venue.
The three are facing charges of fraud and corruption.
Zama Sokhabase, an Executive Committee member in eThekwini Municipality read Gumede’s letter of acceptance for the nomination, which was greeted with applause by her faction.
Earlier yesterday, a delegate said Gumede emerging as chairperson of the ANC eThekwini region would mark the beginning of the end for the ruling party.
“This is the last opportunity for the ANC in this region and if she wins, the ANC as we know it is going downhill in pretty much the same way as what you see at the eThekwini Municipality,” said the delegate.
He cited how the scandal around Gumede had cost the ANC votes, with the ruling party only managing to hold on to eThekwini Metro by co-opting smaller parties to retain the municipality.
According to the delegate, last year’s local government election results should have been a wake-up call that the public was growing increasingly fed up with the scandals associated with the party.
But one of Gumede’s staunch supporters, Ntando Khuzwayo, dismissed this view, saying Gumede had not been found guilty of any wrongdoing.
“What we have here are baseless accusations that were started to peddle a certain narrative. Comrade Zandile is a leader who subscribes to the principles of the ANC and will lead the revival of our organisation in this region,” said Khuzwayo.
He added that such accusations came from Nyawose’s supporters who wanted to tarnish Gumede’s image.
Another delegate, Stanley Hlatshwayo, said he was hopeful that the conference would result in party unity.
Political analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu described the decision to even contemplate allowing members of the RTT to vote as a disgrace.
“This is not the first time that a conference was being held in a region in KZN or the rest of the country and to change the rules midstream raises an alarm.
“This comes from people who don’t live in eThekwini or KZN... all the way to the National Executive Committee who have a vested interest in the outcome of what happens in eThekwini, the ANC’s biggest region in the country,” Mngomezulu said.
He added that the conference was crucial for the ANC and the stakes were high.
“If the outcomes of the election are not contested, then we might have a peaceful KZN provincial conference and a national elective conference. But if it is contested, then political dynamics will play themselves out.”
Mngomezulu said while the eThekwini conference might provide an indication of what was to come, nothing was certain in politics.
“Anything can happen between now and the provincial conference and the national elective conference.”
Another analyst, Dr Fikile Vilakazi from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said Gumede’s win may tarnish the image of the ANC as it was already in a vulnerable state.
“The ANC is at its weakest at the moment owing to accusations of corruption among its leaders. When an individual facing such charges is not only nominated but actually gets elected, it amounts to a slap in the face to the public,” said Vilakazi.
She added that it had not come as a surprise that the issue of credentials had been dragged out before it was resolved.
“This is a highly contested conference with both sides fancying their chances, and in such a close contest each vote counts for either side,” the academic continued. She pointed out that owing to the close nature of the contest, there remained a chance that the losing side would mount a legal action over the results.
Aside from the provincial leadership led by chairperson Sihle Zikalala, national figures, including national spokesperson Pule Mabe and Lindiwe Sisulu, also attended the conference.