Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/ANA Pictures

Durban - The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has stripped one of its regions of its powers in what is seen by some to be a purge of the pro-Cyril Ramaphosa camp ahead of the regional conferences.

On Sunday the provincial executive committee (PEC) of the ANC descended on Port Shepstone where regional leaders and branches were informed of the province’s intention to effectively take over the running of the Lower South Coast region.

A member of the regional executive committee (REC) said the move was related to the upcoming national conference in December which has split ANC members into the two main camps.

“The province wants to ensure a pro-Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma camp emerges and this is their way of doing that. This is aimed at ensuring that (current regional secretary) Mzwandile Mkhwanazi does not become chair of the region because he is a Ramaphosa man.”

ANC KZN spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli rejected the claims, saying the decision had nothing to do with factions or the upcoming national conference.

“We have taken away the powers of the RECs in Harry Gwala and the Far North regions. Are those regions also supporting Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa?” Ntuli asked.

Harry Gwala region is Dlamini Zuma’s home region and is said to be backing her.

Ntuli said the ANC took the decision after it found some members of the REC were implicated in manipulating membership and some party processes before the 2016 local government elections. This was to ensure that candidates aligned to a certain faction were eventually elected.

“We met the branches, we met the REC members who were implicated and also met the REC as a structure nobody has produced evidence to contradict us,” he said.

Some Ramaphosa supporters feared the move would mean the branch meetings would be manipulated ahead of the regional conference.

“This means they (the provincial leaders) will oversee the branch general meetings and will therefore decide which branches get to participate in the conference.

“We knew from last week that they wanted to disband the region. What they have done is purely that. This is the same thing as disbandment because the PEC now takes over,” said an REC member who asked not to be named.

When the decision was communicated to branches, many branch representatives are said to have expressed unhappiness with the decision.

Some branch members, clad in ANC T-shirts and singing pro-Ramaphosa songs, tried unsuccessfully to storm the venue of the meeting.

The region, which incorporates towns like Port Shepstone, supported former ANC provincial chairperson Senzo Mchunu for the 2015 provincial conference.

Mchunu lost there to Sihle Zikalala and the outcome is being contested in court. The matter is expected to be heard next month.

Earlier this year the region made headlines when it nominated former Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni to be mayor of Ugu District Municipality. This is said to have angered the provincial leadership of the party as Nkonyeni had earlier snubbed an offer to serve as a co-opted member of the PEC.

Ntuli said the region was busy with membership audits and was unlikely to be able to hold its regional conference.

The regional conferences are set to be the battleground for the two dominant factions as they battle for control of the ANC’s most powerful province.

All regions, except eThekwini, are set to hold their regional conferences but some have had to postpone them owing to a number of reasons.

These in some cases included irregularities in membership discovered in a recent audit conducted by Luthuli House.

Dlamini Zuma’s Harry Gwala Region in southern KwaZulu-Natal had to postpone the conference from June to August, but the region is still said to be far from ready for the conference.

The chairperson position of this region is contested by pro-Dlamini Zuma current chairman Zamo Nxumalo and KwaZulu-Natal MPL Amon Zondi, who has been described as a Ramaphosa backer.

A prominent ANC activist in the region, who declined to be named, said “if Zamo wins it is good for NDZ, and if Amon wins it is good for Ramaphosa”.

Inkosi Bhambatha Region in northern KwaZulu-Natal was also not sure who to support between Ramaphosa and Dlamini Zuma.

In this region four people are said to be eyeing the chairperson position.

They are regional secretary Lucky Moloi, who is linked to Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe’s presidential ambitions; Linda Manana, who is Dlamini Zuma’s backer; KwaZulu-Natal MP Jomo Sibiya, who backs Ramaphosa; and Greytown Municipal Mayor Thami Ngubane, a former KwaZulu-Natal ANC Youth League chairman who supports Dlamini Zuma.

The Mercury