Pro-Jacob Zuma church group in disarray
The church organisation that founded the pro-Jacob Zuma African Transformation Movement (ATM) is unravelling, with a faction applying for the party to be deregistered and barred from the May 8 elections.
Buyisile Ngqulwana, the secretary-general of the South African Council of Messianic Churches in Christ (SACMCC), the church NGO that founded the party, this week wrote to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), asking that the ATM be deregistered for the election.
Ngqulwana told the Sunday Times that the council held its conference this week and had resolved to deregister the party after it elected a new president, Nombulelo Mazibukwana, to replace the previous leader, the Zuma-aligned Caesar Nongqunga.
Ngqulwana said he had been mandated by the council to deregister the ATM as part of its plan to reach out to the ANC instead of contesting the election.
"[ATM president Vuyolwethu] Zungula decided, with the people he was with, to register the ATM without a mandate from the council.
"We tried to contest it but I was recalled as general secretary … I was brought back after the ATM had gained momentum," he said.
The Sunday Times has seen a letter sent to the IEC in which Ngqulwana, on behalf of the SACMCC, asks that the ATM be deregistered as a political party.
The ATM was established by Nongqunga and other church leaders sympathetic to Zuma. Since then, other Zuma backers, among them former cabinet spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi and former ANC Eastern Cape treasurer Thandiswa Marawu, have joined the party.
Another prominent leader in the party ranks is former DA Eastern Cape chair Veliswa Mvenya.
Ngqulwana said the registration of the ATM was fraudulent because it used the constitution of the African Transformation Congress (ATC), the political arm of the SACMCC, which was denied registration by the IEC last year.
Ngqulwana said he had to pretend to be on board with the ATM after he was brought back, in order to fight his battle against the formation of the party internally.
"We had a conference [this week] and we resolved that the ATM does not exist because it uses the constitution of the ATC … [Nongqunga] was removed and [we] elected another president," he said.
"As churches, we are distancing ourselves from the ATM because there is fraud [in their registration] … we are churches, we don't want to be part of fraud," he said.
But party leaders close to Nongqunga said that Ngqulwana's claim is false - and there is, they said, no decision to deregister the party.
The Sunday Times has seen papers to the IEC in which Ngqulwana, through his lawyers, objects to the registration of the ATM.
He has given the IEC until April 24 to respond, failing which he will approach the courts.
ATM leader Zungula had not replied to questions by the time of going to print.