DURBAN - THE fragile unity of the ANC is under threat as Senzo Mchunu’s supporters are not going down without a fight after his failed bid to become secretary-general.
On Friday, aggrieved members, believed to be from KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, met a delegation led by national executive committee (NEC) member David Mahlobo at Luthuli House, the party’s headquarters.
At the centre of the marathon meeting were the “missing” 68 votes at the party’s 54th elective conference held in Nasrec, Johannesburg this week, which the group believed had been in Mchunu’s favour.
Of the 68, it emerged during the conference that Mchunu had received 15 votes, which was not enough for him to win the position.
Earlier in the week, newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, who Mchunu vigorously campaigned for, urged his supporters not to go to court, saying that would attract controversy.
But the group was unrelenting, saying they wanted another verification of the result.
Mchunu, former premier and ANC chairperson in KZN, lost to Free State chairperson and premier Ace Magashule initially by 24 votes. The margin was later reduced to 9 votes after the recount.
But he made it to the 80-member NEC, the party’s highest decision-making body, at number 18.
“I will not make noise about losing the position of secretary-general to Magashule. What I support now as a member of the NEC is fairness. Remember that black people in general in South Africa were for a long time the victims of unfair political dispensation and we were crying and yearning for fairness in our country.
“We can’t turn around after we attained freedom and not practise principles of justice and fairness.”
Mchunu said he supported anyone who believed they deserved justice and fairness.
Mchunu, whose political career has spanned decades, called for unity in the ANC ahead of the 2019 general elections.
It is understood that the new leadership led by Ramaphosa did not attend the meeting.
Ajay Chagan, an attorney who represented the ANC, said: “The issue was not resolved at the meeting but we agreed with the aggrieved members that they must present us with evidence pointing to some irregularities regarding votes.”
The parties are set to meet again early next month but a date was yet to be confirmed.
Chagan said there was no litigation against the party as the matter was being dealt with internally.
Mchunu lauded the group, saying: “What I like about them is that they dealt with the matter internally. That should be commended.”
The ANC headed to the elective conference with glaring tensions between supporters of Ramaphosa and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
In an unprecedented move, Mpumalanga, headed by David Mabuza, who was elected deputy president, introduced what it termed a unity vote in a bid to mend the fractures.
This seemed to have prevailed as both factions were equally represented in the top six.
Ramaphosa was elected alongside members of his slate, former secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, now chairperson, and former Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile as treasurer-general.
Dlamini Zuma’s allies Magashule, Mabuza and Jessie Duarte, who retained her position as deputy secretary-general, also made the cut.
Analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu, politics lecturer at the University of the Western Cape, warned that if the top six officials took party decisions on factional lines, “it will be a recipe for disaster”.
“If the ANC wants to sustain unity and win the 2019 election, they must start finding political solutions rather than taking the legal route because the latter option deepened the factions,” he said.
Mngomezulu lambasted the leadership for how it handled the issue of the “missing” votes.
“They should have explained to delegates the issue of the missing votes after the results were announced.”
An ally of Mchunu, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said if they were frustrated internally, approaching the court would be their last resort.
The ANC headed to the conference beset by a number of court cases in KZN, Free State and North West over branch meeting irregularities.
“The new trend of taking the party to court will destroy the ANC. It’s not good for an ailing organisation like the ANC,” said Mngomezulu.