Durban - ANC figures say the visit by the Shembe Church Ebuhleni leader to the home of former presidential hopeful Dr Zweli Mkhize shows he is on the comeback trail and will emerge as a significant player in the party’s election campaign.
With KwaZulu-Natal likely to be a key battle ground in determining power relations in the 2024 general elections, some ANC figures who had been out of the spotlight are re-emerging.
Governing party members say this week’s visit by the leader of the Nazareth Baptist Church Ebuhleni to Pietermaritzburg is a demonstration of the ANC’s attempt to appeal to key constituencies before the 2024 elections.
The Shembe leader, Mduduzi Inkosi uNyazi Lwezulu Shembe, visited Mkhize at his Willowfontein home on Monday and attended the prayer at the Pietermaritzburg Athletics Stadium that had been organised by Msunduzi Municipality yesterday.
ANC Moses Mabhida region chairperson Mzi Thebolla said the huge turnout at yesterday’s gathering was an illustration of the support the governing party still enjoyed in the church.
Several ANC activists, especially in the Moses Mabhida region, under which Msunduzi Municipality falls, said the prayer was a success and showed the ANC had the support of the church.
They also cited the significance of the visit to Mkhize’s home.
“Zweli has a long history of close relations with the Shembe Church, from the days of his premiership and up until now. So the visit was an affirmation of this long bond,” said one of Mkhize’s aids, noting how he had visited the church leader before the ANC’s elective conference in Nasrec, Gauteng, last year.
An ANC insider in KZN agreed that the province would be very influential in the make-up of the political landscape after the 2024 elections, citing how this had been the case in the 2009 elections.
“Remember that when the ANC lost votes nationally with the emergence of Cope, it was KZN that managed to nullify this impact by gaining more votes. It is going to be the same thing again in the coming elections,” said the source.
He added that Mkhize as a seasoned campaigner was a crucial element of the ANC’s election machinery.
Another ANC member pointed to how Mkhize had also enjoyed good relations with the Zulu Royal House, but dismissed talk that he was positioning himself to be the next Zulu Traditional Prime Minister to replace the late Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
In his message, the leader of the Shembe Church Ebuhleni appealed for calm from residents, especially when it came to the delivery of services, warning of the destructive nature of violent protests.
“When people burn offices because they want certain things, the flip side of this is that the money that has to repair the torched offices could have been used for services,” said the leader.
In a recent media briefing ANC KZN secretary Bheki Mtolo said the governing party was rekindling its relationship with many institutions, from traditional to religious bodies, as part of ensuring the social compact in the province.