According to an interview with SAfm on Stephen Grootes’ show on Monday morning, newly re-elected KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala made the surprising announcement that the party in the province will no longer be supporting former president Jacob Zuma officially during his ongoing court battles in the province.
Zikalala confirmed the new provincial leadership would no longer allow its structures to mobilise support for Zuma in any official capacity.
Zuma will appear again in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on corruption charges with a new high-powered legal team on Friday.
During past appearances in the high court in Durban this year provincial and regional leaders in the province have defiantly supported Zuma despite a directive from national leadership to ANC members not to appear in a party capacity to support any leader charged with fraud or corruption.
Zikalala appears to now believe the directive was correct all along.
He told Grootes on Monday that the ANC would be accepting and defending court decisions and that it reflected poorly on the ANC to “turn around and support leaders who are appearing in court and facing [fraud and corruption] charges”.
He said the provincial ANC still sympathised and respected the former president and he still enjoyed their support within the party structures, but “going forward we will not use ANC offices and other resources to support him when he is going to court”.
He said individuals were still free to support Zuma in their personal capacities.
Over the weekend a more “united” provincial executive committee was elected with Zikalala as provincial chairperson and Mike Mabuyakhulu, a former Ramaphosa campaigner, as his deputy.
University of KwaZulu-Natal Zakhele Ndlovu, however, cautioned against thinking the province is now more strongly in Ramaphosa’s favour as “the Zuma loyalists” are still in control and ready to continue with their anti-Ramaphosa agenda, he said.
Commenting on the election of the 35-member provincial executive committee (PEC) at the party’s provincial conference held at Durban University of Technology from Thursday to Saturday, Ndlovu said that by going for unity at all cost, Luthuli House had actually papered over the deep cracks in the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal.
The conference elected what was seen as a mixed bag of top-five office bearers comprising Zikalala, Mabuyakhulu, Mdumiseni Ntuli as provincial secretary, Sipho Hlomuka as deputy secretary and Nomusa Dube-Ncube retaining her position as treasurer. Mabuyakhulu defeated a Zuma ally, Willies Mchunu, while Ntuli beat Super Zuma, the former president’s political marksman, for the provincial secretary position.
In fact, Zuma previously publicly said he would like to see the disbanded 2015 PEC returned as it was – a statement that was interpreted as undermining Ramaphosa’s efforts to unite the province.
While some claimed that Mchunu and Super Zuma’s ousting would lessen Zuma’s influence in the province, Ndlovu said Zuma would, in fact, still be in control through Zikalala and Mchunu, who remains premier.
Zikalala surprised many when he initially called on the ANC top brass to reconsider its decision not to support Zuma during his ongoing corruption and money laundering trial. The former president is facing 16 charges emanating from his alleged involvement in the multibillion-rand arms deal.
Among those who flanked Zuma in the high court in Durban were the Eastern Cape’s Andile Lungisa, Zuma’s former Cabinet ministers Des van Rooyen and Faith Muthambi, former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association spokesperson Carl Niehaus.