ANC rebels in key KZN region hobble election effort
The ANC election campaign in a major region of KwaZulu-Natal is in tatters because supporters of former president Jacob Zuma are boycotting the party's official programme.
Insiders say that 78 of the 88 branches in the Moses Mabhida region - which includes Pietermaritzburg - have withdrawn from all party activities in protest at the provincial executive committee's failure to convene a regional executive conference.
Almost half of the members of a regional task team established in October by the provincial executive committee are taking part in the boycott, which could cripple ANC campaigning in the area ahead of the 2019 elections.
The disgruntled task team members include education MEC Mthandeni Dlungwane, MP Sibongile Mchunu, uMshwathi local municipality speaker Nokuthula Mdunge and the deputy co-ordinator of the task team, Mzi Zuma.
Members of this group have refused to attend meetings of the team, apparently because they object to the disbandment in May of a regional executive committee of which Dlungwane was the chair. Mzi Zuma was its secretary.
Three task teams have been appointed since that committee was disbanded.
One of the events the group is said to have boycotted was a walkabout by Jacob Zuma at a taxi rank in Pietermaritzburg in November, because it had been organised by the task team.
Speaking on behalf of the disgruntled faction, uMngeni sub-region secretary Sthembiso Nkuna confirmed that a group of ANC top brass in Moses Mabhida "do not recognise" the task team. "We distance ourselves from [it] and we will never be part of it. We are not taking part in any activities organised by them. That includes campaigning."
Nkuna was among ANC members who recently marched to Luthuli House demanding that a regional conference be convened. They also demanded the dissolution of the task team, which they denounced as a factional structure imposed on legitimate branches of the ANC.
Nkuna said former members of the regional executive committee like Dlungwane and Mzi Zuma had been "subordinated" by the task team.
Two sources in the task team said the disaffected members accused the party leadership in the province of purging those who aligned themselves with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the national conference last year.
"They told [Jacob] Zuma not to campaign for the ANC in the region until their issues were resolved, but he defied them. Now these members want nothing to do with ANC campaigning," one source said.
Another source said some of the branches that had distanced themselves from the regional leadership were "slowly coming back. Those aligned to Zuma were actively keeping them away. Corruption and cadre deployment have captured a lot of comrades in this region and are the main dividers. Zuma is isolating them by preaching unity."
The current regional task team has 20 members from a range of factions in the provincial ANC.
A party leader in the region accused the Dlungwane faction of "deliberately sabotaging the ANC".
He said: "With this task team, we have achieved political stability in the region and the majority of members are happy with [it] because every faction is represented. The few unhappy ones feel that their faction has no dominance in the task team, hence they have boycotted planning meetings and are not participating in ANC programmes."
Another insider told the Sunday Times the former president refused to be co-opted into the "sabotage the ANC" programme. "He is disciplined. He loves the ANC and has refused to be misled by politically immature people."