President Cyril Ramaphosa engages with commuters at Berea taxi rank in Durban as part of ANC celebration of its 107 anniversary and build up to its manifesto launch at Moses Mabhida Stadium. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/ African News Agency (ANA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa engages with commuters at Berea taxi rank in Durban as part of ANC celebration of its 107 anniversary and build up to its manifesto launch at Moses Mabhida Stadium. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/ African News Agency (ANA)

#ANC107: Decision to stage events in eThekwini a calculated move

By Professor Bheki R Mngomezulu Time of article published Jan 11, 2019

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ON Friday, the ANC leadership descended on eThekwini to hold its list conference at the Coastlands Hotel in uMhlanga, which lasted until Sunday. On Monday, party leaders spread across KwaZulu-Natal, appealing to the electorate to give the ANC yet another chance in the forthcoming elections.

On Tuesday, the governing party held its annual January 8 Statement at Ohlange in Inanda.

These events constituted the build-up to the official launch of the ANC’s manifesto on Saturday at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

But why did the ANC leadership decide to hold all these important events in KZN? Why were the events not spread across the country?

A simplistic answer could be that the ANC wanted to save costs and avoid logistical challenges. Another unsophisticated answer could be that the decision was prompted by convenience and logic.

While these are plausible reasons, my view is that there are more sophisticated reasons on which this decision was predicated. I will enumerate a few.

First, as the ANC is going through some turbulent times, it was necessary to go back to the party’s roots to derive inspiration.

Dr John Langalibalele Mafukuzela, Dube, who was elected in absentia as the ANC’s first president, was born at Inanda Mission in KwaZulu-Natal. It was also here where he was buried, not far from Ohlange High School, which he founded.

Besides Dube, KZN produced ANC leaders such as JT Gumede, Dr Pixley ka Seme, iNkosi Albert Luthuli and Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma.

Second, former president Nelson Mandela left indelible footprints in the province. It was here he made his last public speech. He was also arrested in Howick.

After spending 27 years behind bars, he came to Ohlange to report to Dube and others that the freedom they were fighting for was on the horizon.

On April 27, 1994 Mandela cast his vote at the high school. This was a symbolic gesture appreciating the role played by Dube in the ANC’s Struggle.

Third, KZN remains the ANC’s largest province in terms of party membership. It retained the number one spot even when Mpumalanga replaced the Eastern Cape in the second spot. This makes KZN the ANC’s backbone. As the party’s unity reached its lowest ebb, it was justifiable to come to KZN to consolidate its power, and diffuse remnants of factionalism.

Fourth, the province has experienced many intra-party and intra-alliance killings, especially between the ANC and the SACP. A message of peace was therefore necessary.

Last, the Zuma issue was badly handled by the ANC. Emotions and political expediency superseded critical thinking. As a corrective measure, KZN had to be the site of the its major events to calm the situation.

While it is true that the ANC has managed to achieve most of its goals through these events, some vestiges of divisions have been somewhat conspicuous. For example, there were conflicting messages regarding some of the names said to be on the party’s list. While the guidelines and the criteria were clear, the interpretation thereof differed markedly.

One view was that those implicated in wrongdoing, but not found guilty, yet would be retained. This was in line with the Constitution, which stipulates that anyone is assumed innocent until proven guilty.

On the other hand, there were those who held the view that anyone implicated in wrongdoing, even if they had not been formally charged or found guilty, would be removed from the list.

The SACP’s second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila insisted it would ensure anyone implicated in criminal activity or any wrongdoing would be removed from the list.

During the January 8 Statement, some members of the ANC made it clear that they still liked Zuma more than President Cyril Ramaphosa. This assertion was buttressed by the fact that the crowd applauded Zuma more than Ramaphosa. Moreover, as Ramaphosa neared the end of his speech some ANC members started shouting “Zuma, Zuma, Zuma”.

Having said the above, Ramaphosa should be credited for his success in containing a potentially embarrassing situation. First, while traversing KZN he ensured that the provincial leadership walked with him during the campaigns. Second, at the January 8 Statement event he ensured both former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Zuma were visible. Moreover, he acknowledged their role in the ANC and also deeply appreciated their presence. He even told the crowd he was lucky to have them around him.

To some, this demonstrated Ramaphosa’s leadership prowess. They showered him with praise for demonstrating unity in the ANC. This was not a misplaced accolade. However, a counter view could be that Ramaphosa acted out of necessity; he had no choice. He could not afford to ostracise Zuma, who clearly still enjoys a large following beyond the ANC.

Furthermore, he could not be reckless in a province like KZN which is the pillar of the ANC and which has been engulfed in factionalism. Either way, Ramaphosa saved the ANC from potential humiliation.

Another point worth noting is that Deputy President David Mabuza had a taste of how some ANC members and the media feel about his role in the ANC’s 2018 elective conference. Some still believed he was the one who led to Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma losing to Ramaphosa by a mere 179 votes. Not surprisingly, Mabuza defended himself by saying that since voting was through a secret ballot, there was no way that he would have known how delegates voted.

The commemoration of the late Peter Mokaba’s 60th birthday in Cato Crest presented the ANC and Ramaphosa the opportunity to reflect on the ANC and the ANC Youth League. Ramaphosa and KZN ANCYL chairperson Kwazi Mshengu admitted the youth had failed to emulate Mokaba. It pledged to do more to keep his spirit alive.

Overall, the ANC’s decision paid off.

* Mngomezulu is a full professor of political science and the deputy dean of research in the department of politics at UWC.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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