DURBAN - WITH the Greater Bhambatha (Greytown) region of the ANC in KwaZuluNatal expected to hold the final regional elective conference this weekend, the stage is set for the party’s provincial conference in July.
Eight of the 10 regions have picked officers-bearers with a leaning towards the radical economic transformation (RET) faction of the party over the faction aligned to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Greater Bhambatha is also expected to elect its leadership along RET lines, although insiders say it is premature to say that this will be the only decisive element at the provincial conference.
The deep divisions in the party at a provincial level have made it anaemic, and far from the powerful kingmaker role it once held in ANC party politics.
At the provincial conference, all eyes will be on the current chairperson, Sihle Zikalala, with those in the RET grouping apparently endorsing both MEC for Finance Nomusa Dube-Ncube and Peggy Nkonyeni, the current MEC for Transport and Community Safety and Liaison, as the preferred candidate to lead the province as chairperson.
Another faction is campaigning for former health minister Zweli Mkhize, who on the surface has the backing of RET groupings.
A broad overview of the regional elective results thus far has the RET faction taking the Musa Dladla (Richards Bay-Empangeni), Inkosi Bhambatha (uMzinyathi), Josiah Gumede (uThukela), Harry Gwala and Mzala Nxumalo regions (Zululand), Newcastle’s eMalahleni, Far North region (uMkhanyakude) and eThekwini, with the faction aligned to Ramaphosa winning the Lower South Coast and Moses Mabhida (uMgungundlovu) regions.
But the outcomes of these regional conferences and their impact on decisions at the provincial and the national elective conference are not necessarily indicative of the final outcomes.
Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, who has abided by the party’s step-aside regulations as she faces fraud and corruption charges, now heads the province’s most powerful region and she won on an RET slate.
Mlondolozi Mkhize, spokesperson for the RET-dominated eThekwini ANC regional executive committee, headed by Gumede, said it was premature to talk about leaders when the party was facing issues like the loss of votes at the local government elections.
He said people had not deserted the ANC but they had also not turned up to vote for the party and that was a more pressing issue.
Political analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu said while the RET faction had dominated the regional conferences in KZN, it was no guarantee that this faction would dominate the top five positions at the provincial conference.
“Being the incumbent works in the favour of the current chairperson, Zikalala. People are not necessarily interested in continuity but they know if he wins they will gain favour.”
Mngomezulu said Ramaphosa and those in his corner “know that KZN is not a province they can count on”.
He said the ANC in KZN was focused on getting someone from the province into the top six of the party at a national level but to do so they had to fix the mistakes they made at the 2017 elective conference.
“They have to nominate a candidate who will get support despite the factional politics. In 2017 all their candidates were rejected because of the way they strategised.”