DURBAN - BY ELECTING Zandile Gumede as chairperson of eThekwini Region, ANC members “gave the middle finger” to President Cyril Ramaphosa and the renewal project, demonstrating that they would not have the courts deciding who should be their leader.
This is the view of political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe after Gumede, who is facing corruption charges, defeated Thabani Nyawose for the position of regional chairperson at the ANC regional conference on Sunday night.
There had been suggestions that the leadership race would be closely contested, but in the end the Gumede slate won by a clear margin.
Seepe said three factors affected the outcome:
Issue of constitutionalism. Inconsistency in the application of the step-aside rule.
The suspected use of the courts to settle political grudges.
“At stake here is the issue of constitutionalism, the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise and the branch delegates wanted to demonstrate that they subscribed to this principle and that is why they voted for Gumede as the regional chairperson,” Seepe said.
The analyst argued that the stepaside rule had been carefully crafted so that it was applied to certain members in the party, and some of the rank and file had seen this. He added that because of this, some party members had developed a negative perception of it.
He predicted more setbacks for Ramaphosa in the coming regional conferences.
“What we have seen here in the past is the purging of certain people who are mainly against the current leaders, and ANC members in eThekwini have said ’we see right through this’ and that is why they voted the way they did.”
Seepe said Gumede’s election should not be seen as an endorsement of wrongdoing, but more as a call for the application of the rules of engagement in the sphere of politics. He cited how Ramaphosa’s allies including Oscar Mabuyane from the Eastern Cape had been allowed to hold public office despite being suspected of wrongdoing.
One of Gumede’s key backers, Njabulo Mchunu, said they always knew that they would win because they had grass-roots support, with many branches on their side. “We were validated despite the difficulties we faced building up to the conference. Our task now is to strengthen the ANC so that it provides leadership in eThekwini because there has been a leadership vacuum for the past three years,” said Mchunu. He expressed hope that party members in the region would be able to work with each other and put differences aside.
KZN ANC spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said the provincial leadership was satisfied with the manner in which the elective conference was conducted.
He applauded the maturity and collegiality that characterised the successful holding of the conference.
He added that the governing party had noted that ahead of the conference, naysayers expected that due to high contestation among the members of the movement there would be blood on the electoral floor, but it was not to be.
The new leadership is expected to hold a press briefing during this week.