Jacob Zuma cronies lobby against KZN chair Sihle Zikalala
Ploy is to get ANC in province to nominate woman as premier
Cracks have begun to appear in former president Jacob Zuma's stronghold province, with some of his allies turning against ANC KwaZulu-Natal chair Sihle Zikalala.
It has emerged that Zuma henchmen are campaigning to block Zikalala from being chosen as premier after next year's local government elections.
Those lobbying against Zikalala's rise to the highest office in the province argue that the time has come for the province to be led by a female premier.
As provincial chairman, Zikalala was seen as a shoo-in for the position of premier.
Premiers are chosen by the ANC national executive committee after receiving three names from the provincial executive committees.
The squabble over the position is expected to divide the party in the province, making it difficult for the Zuma grouping to use it as a base to launch a fightback against President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The anti-Zikalala campaign was exposed when powerful ANC eThekwini region chair and Durban mayor Zandile Gumede addressed an ANC Women's League event at which she is said to have endorsed co-operative governance & traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube for the post.
The women's league spokesperson in the province, Mbali Fraser, said the league was "considering" Dube-Ncube's name. She confirmed that Gumede had talked about Ncube-Dube at the event.
"She was speaking on a principled position of the women's league, which is saying come 2019, as KZN we have names that we will send to Luthuli House to consider for the position of premier.
"KZN has never had a female premier. It is time. As the women's league we cannot be advocating for a male. It is proper that as a women's league we support a name of a woman, but of course we will support the name that will be decided on by Luthuli House," she said.
Another person being mentioned for the post of premier is labour minister Mildred Oliphant.
Zikalala is said to have irked some of his allies in his provincial executive committee by not delivering on their expectations - including a reshuffle that would have accommodated them.
In addition, Zikalala's "cosy" relationship with Ramaphosa has made him unpopular within the Zuma grouping.
Insiders said Gumede was leading the campaign for a female premier.
"She is uniting the women's league against Sihle Zikalala. Their relationship has been strained but it became worse after the provincial conference, where the old guard was defeated. She feels like Sihle sold them out at that conference," an insider told the Sunday Times.
"The ANC in KZN supports the president and we understand the need to support him, especially towards the elections. He is being tolerated by a lot of people in KZN but the group of Zandile cannot tolerate him," the insider said.
A source who was at the event said Gumede was so passionate about Dube-Ncube that she emphasised the matter three times - before she stood up, during a speech and when it was time to eat.
"She emphasised that comrade Nomusa must be supported, that we can't always support men like we do not have capable leaders in the league," she said.
Approached for comment, Zikalala said he had no problem with the women's league nominating another candidate but referred all questions to the provincial secretary, Mdumiseni Ntuli.
ANC eThekwini region chair Zandile Gumede emphasised that ... we can't always support men like we do not have capable leaders in the leagueSource
Ntuli said the list process was still at an early stage in KwaZulu-Natal.
"The women's league is a structure of the ANC. If it has a view I suppose at some point it will come to the front and state its views openly," he said.
"I am not aware that comrades may be plotting to block Zikalala from becoming a premier for whatever reason. If it is taking place I suppose it is still at a level where I am not aware of."
Gumede said she was addressing a platform of the women's league and was encouraging women to nominate women during the coming list conferences, but denied mentioning the name of Dube-Ncube.
She said any claim that she was part of a plot against Zikalala was an attempt to divide the leadership of her region, the province, and a means to isolate her in order to weaken the eThekwini region.
"I support Zikalala and respect him as my leader and my mentor, I fully support the leadership and presidency of Baba Cyril Ramaphosa both in the ANC and the country," Gumede said.
"The decision of who becomes a premier or mayor of the ANC doesn't rest with me or any lower structure, it will be taken by the ANC higher structure. I can't give myself the powers I don't have, I will support whoever the ANC decides [upon]," she said.