Eric Naki
Political Editor
3 minute read
26 Jul 2018
11:46 am

How Cyril has begun to put Zikalala and Co in their place

Eric Naki

Even the former president's most fervent supporters appear to be sensing he may be heading into the political wilderness.

African National Congress (ANC) Chairman Sihile Zikalala addressing members during the KZN provincial general council meeting held at the Olive Convention Centre on December 04, 2017 in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Limpopo supports Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for ANC leader after Ramaphosa emerged as the province’s preferred candidate. (Photo by Gallo Images / Daily Sun / Jabulani Langa)

It is not surprising that newly elected KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala has begun to waver in his support for former president Jacob Zuma, as he realises the carpet is slowly being pulled from under Zuma’s feet, a political analyst says.

Zamikhaya Maseti, who has deep knowledge of ANC-led tripartite alliance politics, said Zikalala was coming to terms with the fact that President Cyril Ramaphosa was here to stay and that he should toe the line.

Maseti said Ramaphosa’s unity message within the ANC was spreading like wildfire and that Zikalala has realised that nothing will stop it.

He said the fact that Zikalala had made three contradictory statements on whether the party should support Zuma in his ongoing corruption and money laundering trial was to be expected because Ramaphosa’s influence in the ANC, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, is beginning to have an effect on the party.

He said Zikalala, as a top Zuma loyalist, was caught between a rock and a hard place because he could see that Ramaphosa’s power consolidation was strengthening in KwaZulu-Natal and that if he stood in the way, he might be left in the cold.

During the ANC’s elective conference in Durban at the weekend, Zikalala called on the party’s national executive committee to review its decision not to support embattled Zuma in his trial. But this week, in a radio interview with SAfm, he appeared to retract the statement, saying KwaZulu-Natal would not back the former president, at least officially.

Yesterday, he clarified that they would not completely distance themselves from Zuma.

Zikalala is known as the former president’s frontman in KwaZulu-Natal; he did not hide his support for the 76-year-old. He appeared emboldened by his victory on Saturday, when he was elected provincial chairperson, as he called on the party’s top structure to back Zuma, a statement that prompted political analyst Ralph Mathekga to see it as part of a campaign to undermine Ramaphosa.

“The ANC national leadership should be concerned with its KwaZulu-Natal structure taking a resolution that the NEC should reconsider its position on Zuma court support,” said Mathekga.

Another political analyst, Zakhele Ndlovu, told The Citizen this week the so-called ANC unity in KwaZulu-Natal was false, despite the election of a united provincial leadership.

He said the national executive committee had merely papered over the deep cracks in the provincial ANC because it wanted KwaZulu-Natal to vote ANC in next year’s general election.

But Maseti saw a politically confused leader in Zikalala in light of the recent ANC election in the province and the fact that Ramaphosa loyalists were now part of the provincial executive committee. He said Zikalala was unsure about whether it was wise to continue backing Zuma.

“This is the stage of the politics of the stomach,” Maseti said. “Some leaders know which side of their bread is buttered and know that sticking with Zuma forever will not work for them.

“Some will wobble like Zikalala is doing now.”

He added that “this showed a weakness on Zikalala’s part, because as a leader he should stick to what he believes in”.

Maseti said the biggest loser in the KwaZulu-Natal ANC electoral outcome was Zuma. The provincial executive committee election results showed it wasn’t a winner takes all, but was the ANC’s Nasrec elective conference outcome replicated to some degree.

“The outcome in KZN indicates a consolidation of Ramaphosa’s attempt to build unity within the ANC,” he said. “Zuma is the biggest loser there; he is moving towards the periphery, towards political wilderness. He is no longer having a huge influence and Zikalala is sensing that.”

According to Maseti, what is happening with Zikalala is likely to be a trend among Zuma supporters at various levels of the governing party.

“People are beginning to toe the line in the ANC.”

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