Sihle Zikalala
Durban - After several delays and last-minute court actions that have threatened to divide the party, the KwaZulu-Natal ANC will finally hold its long-awaited provincial conference where a new unity leadership is expected to emerge.

This is after the KwaZulu-Natal provincial task team (PTT), led by convener Mike Mabuyakhulu and co-ordinator Sihle Zikalala, signed a memorandum of agreement with disgruntled members of three regions which led to the latter withdrawing their court application on Thursday last week.

Following the success of their discussions and negotiations, the task team resolved to hold the Provincial Conference from July 19-21. No venue has been confirmed as yet.

The PTT says concerns raised by unhappy party members have been addressed, but some have threatened to take the party to court if the agreements that had been reached were not honoured.

The groups were locked in negotiations last week after aggrieved members from Moses Mabhida, Lower South Coast and Harry Gwala regions interdicted the conference in June raising concerns over the planning processes leading up to the event. They were due back in court on Thursday but resolved the matter outside of court.

Speaking to Independent Media on condition of anonymity, some members from the aggrieved factions said that although negotiations went well, they were now waiting to see that all promises were kept.

“It was intense discussions but we did feel heard and understood. We did not want to approach the court in the first place but we felt like we had no choice. We want it to be free and fair and for the conference to produce a well-balanced team,” one of the members said.

One member said they were “pleased” with the resolutions that emanated from the meeting and hoped the province was on a path to unity.

Another member raised fears that “things will just go back to how they were”, saying they would not hesitate to approach the court again if the issues were not properly sorted. “We understand how important the conference is but at the same time things need to be done fairly and without hiccups.

“We must go in there united and true to each other but that cannot happen if there’s no intention to stand by your word and fulfil your promises,” he said.

Last month chaos erupted at the party’s provincial conference-turned-consultative conference when the party’s national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, was booed as he took to the podium.

Mantashe was due to deliver the keynote address, but was prevented from speaking despite attempts by Zikalala to calm the pro-Zuma supporters and stop them from singing and chanting.

Fears that similar disrespect would be prevalent in next week’s meeting were raised but ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte, who also heads the party’s national dispute resolution team, said the province was in a “good space” now and she did not expect such behaviour at the upcoming conference.

Duarte reportedly said they could not ignore the factionalism that plagued the previous conference but found that after their visit to the troubled regions and negotiations last week, it was probably the right decision not to have the conference last month.

The Mercury