Sihle Zikalala re-elected as ANC KZN chairperson Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng
ANC Leaders in warring factions in KwaZulu-Natal have expressed hope that the outcome of the elective conference at the weekend was a step towards peace in the province, which has been plagued by deep divisions and political killings.

But the leaders have warned that the peace deal - reflected in the election of the province's new ANC leadership - would not be implemented overnight at regional and branch level.

Mtuza Mkhize, leader of disgruntled group in the Moses Mabhida region, said he was happy with the balance in the top five leadership posts as well as on the provincial executive committee (PEC).

“It is made up of members of CR17, NDZ and the unity slate. This balanced PEC has the potential to help us unite the structures and members of the ANC in the province,” said Mkhize.

CR17 and NDZ were the terms used when President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister in the Presidency Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma contested the ANC's presidency in December.

The re-election of Sihle Zikalala as provincial chairperson and former economic development MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu as his deputy brought hope that the province would unite in time for the general elections next year.

Both had been leading the warring factions whose fights saw the provincial conference being postponed several times and also interdicted in court.

Mkhize said the weekend conference was similar to the party’s national conference at Nasrec late last year.

“The national leadership showed how we should go about building unity. It did this in the formation of the national executive committee (NEC) elections and in the government deployment,” he said.

“I can see this unity in the province cascading down to grassroots,” he added.

Mkhize’s camp had previously complained that while Zikalala and Mabuyakhulu were working together in the provincial task team to build unity, at the regional and branch levels, aggrieved members continued to be sidelined by Zikalala’s camp.

“The conference is a good start, as we can see signs that this unity would filter down to the branches,” said Mkhize.

Zikalala said at the weekend that unity would help the party to “swiftly move to concentrate” on the campaign for next year’s elections.

“My plans are for the ANC to maximise unity to ensure that the ANC becomes more effective in the issues of the community."

Zikalala, who took over as chairperson after the 2015 conference removed Mabuyakhulu as economic development MEC, said “no member would be removed from a position of deployment just because he held a different leadership preference”.

Zikalala became the MEC for the department after ousting Mabuyakhulu.

ANC Youth League provincial chairperson Kwazi Mshengu, whose structure was linked to Zikalala’s camp, also hoped the outcome of the conference would end the factionalism in the province.

“There are many challenges that we have to deal with, but the first step was to hold the conference, so that we can have authorised and legitimate leadership to complete the task of uniting the party,” he said.

Mshengu said he did not expect any court challenge to nullify the results of the conference, as was the case in 2015.

“Comrades accepted the results, and there were no signs of grievances as in 2015 (which nullified the Pietermaritzburg provincial) conference where there were clear signs of court challenge. This time around everyone is satisfied,” said Mshengu.

He said the new leadership had been empowered to work towards ending years of political killings in KZN.