JZ stronghold breached as KZN ruling 'plays into Cyril's hands'
While the so-called "ANC rebels" celebrated outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court following a decisive victory against their own party leadership, another man, several hundred kilometres away, would have been quietly smiling to himself.
That man was presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa, who could emerge the unlikely beneficiary of Tuesday's ruling which effectively renders the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal leaderless and in disarray.
And with the province among the biggest backers of Ramaphosa's strongest rival, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, instability could be decisive.
This is the view of KwaZulu-Natal political analyst and researcher Thabani Khumalo, in the wake of a ruling by Judge Jerome Mnguni that the ANC's 2015 provincial elective conference was unlawful. It renders the election of the party's top five, and the other 25 members of the provincial executive committee, null and void - leaving the party rudderless.
The ruling came after complaints by a faction supporting ousted chairman and KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu, who lost to Sihle Zikalala in a bitter internal battle. The application was led by Vryheid councillor Lawrence Dube and four other ANC members representing 43 branches. They went to court in July last year asking for a rerun, citing various irregularities.
The KwaZulu-Natal ANC said it was studying the judgment and was considering an appeal. The party's youth and women's leagues have called a press conference for Wednesday morning.
Khumalo said that, with more and more ANC branches beginning to back Ramaphosa, the court decision, which could result in fewer delegates from KwaZulu-Natal attending the December conference, throws the presidential race wide open.
But, he said, this also threatened to widen fractures within the party and weaken its voice in December - and Ramaphosa could benefit.
"What this outcome does is add to the acrimonious relations between those that support Senzo Mchunu and those that support Sihle Zikalala. For Cyril, this has boosted the morale of his supporters in KwaZulu-Natal. You will now likely see many others coming out in support of his campaign," said Khumalo.
"This has clearly sent a loud message. Unlike Free State, KwaZulu-Natal will not go to the elective conference with an influential voice."
He believes Zikalala's influence could wane now that he is no longer in a position of power, with the elected party structure he leads now declared illegitimate.
But KZN ANC spokesman Mdumiseni Ntuli said it was not all over for the provincial executive committee. They were expected to meet later on Tuesday.
"We will discuss this outcome and we will consult with the NEC [national executive committee] to determine our next course of action. We, however, believe that we presented a cogent, rational, logical justification on why the  conference should have been held," he said.
Former KZN premier, ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, told journalists in Durban on Tuesday morning that the NEC did not want to rush into a decision as the outcome was still fresh.
KZN ANCYL chairman Kwazi Mshengu said the league was still firmly behind Dlamini-Zuma.
He was also adamant that the outcome would not affect the December conference, nor KwaZulu-Natal's participation in it.