THE ANC eThekwini region has become a key battleground for two senior figures from KwaZulu-Natal who have aspirations for national leadership positions within the governing party.
According to insiders, the decision by former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba to address lectures such as the Solomon Mahlangu event held in Pinetown on Thursday last week is part of the battle for the soul of the ANC’s biggest region nationwide.
Before that lecture, Gigaba was invited to address another event in the populous township of KwaMashu, north of Durban.
The branch that hosted him was the Makhosi Nyoka (a freedom fighter who was killed by an apartheid hit squad while crossing the SA-eSwatini border to carry out an MK operation), which is one of the biggest in the region with about 600 members and has sizeable voting delegates during elective conferences.
It is not clear what position Gigaba wants in the ANC, as some of those who are close to his campaign claim he wants to retain his position as a member of the NEC (national executive committee), while others claim that he wants the province to back him for a top six position.
"Gigaba's strategy is clear, he is focusing on lobbying township branches as they tend to have a large membership and voting delegates. In the coming days, we are likely to see him going to townships like uMlazi and Hammarsdale. He has already done his groundwork in his home town of Mandeni, where the majority of branches are backing him. But eThekwini is the place to fight for as it has the numbers needed during conferences," a member of the ANC privy to the Gigaba campaign told Independent Media yesterday.
Gigaba's push comes as factions of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal are trying to look for a candidate to back in December so that the province at least has a representative in the top six.
"With this in mind, Gigaba is showing up his hand, but in the process, he is pitting himself against Dr Zweli Mkhize who is being supported by both the Zandile (Gumede) faction and the one of Thabani Nyawose," the source added.
Gigaba did not respond to Independent Media when he was asked about his campaign in the eThekwini region.
A member of the ANC close to Mkhize said he cuts across both factions and that will work in his favour when the final call is made on who from KwaZulu-Natal should be backed for a top six position.
"When it comes to Mkhize, all the factions in eThekwini region are fine with him. I think the Zandile Gumede faction is backing him because when Zuma was about to be arrested, he never made adverse statements like the likes of Bheki Cele and others. So it is easy for them to warm up to him even when he is also backed by people they are fighting against in the region," said the member.
A key lobbyist of Mkhize said it was premature for them to start talking about his ambition until branches, regions and provinces have made their preferences known. The lobbyist added that an announcement would be made at the appropriate time.
"It would be presumptuous to be preoccupied with what positions leaders want. That determination will be made at the appropriate time," said the lobbyist.
Just like Gigaba, Mkhize did not comment when asked about the campaign in the eThekwini region, where ward 1, the biggest ANC branch in the country, has already endorsed him.