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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

ANC December conference on a knife-edge

Besides the KZN court ruling and legitimacy of the provincial leadership, the party's conference was further threatened by internal conflict within the ANC countrywide.

Divisions in the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal have widened despite efforts by former chairperson Senzo Mchunu to calm pro- and anti-Jacob Zuma factions.

Now, there is a real possibility that the turmoil in the province could derail the organisation’s national conference in December.

While Mchunu told The Citizen yesterday “there is no winner and no loser in this matter”, the division demonstrated that the branches of the ANC have real power in the organisation and that power has to be consolidated.

However, the organisation’s provincial women’s and youth leagues and the veterans – all staunch allies of President Zuma – vowed to go to court to appeal Tuesday’s ruling by the High Court in Pietermaritzburg declaring the November 2015 KZN provincial conference null and void.

In the absence of clear dominance from either side, the infighting could jeopardise or delay the national conference, political analysts have said.

One analyst, Dr Daniel Silke, said the legitimacy of the provincial executive committee elected at the controversial conference would be questioned. Silke said the conference was unlikely to proceed without the KZN structure as it was Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s main electoral hope at the December conference.

“In some way or another, the ANC has to fix the delegation representation of KwaZulu-Natal, otherwise I don’t see the conference happening,” Silke said.

Silke stressed that there was potential to delay the national conference until the KZN issue was completely resolved.

This was echoed by Dr Somadoda Fikeni, who said the court ruling posed a huge challenge to the ANC.

“It will throw a spanner in the works,” Fikeni said. He said the aggrieved group, led by former provincial chairperson Senzo Mchunu, had been strengthened by the ruling.

“It will embolden the Mchunu group to question the legitimacy of the current PEC,” Fikeni said.

The crisis might force the national executive committee to intervene and establish an interim structure such as a provincial task team (PTT) in the province.

This might also spread to the eThekwini region, which is equally beset by leadership squabbles.

Analyst Andre Duvenhage from North West University said the court decision would not favour the Zuma camp.

“But there is a way to escape legal reality by appealing and delaying matters in order to continue holding on to power,” he said. The analyst said the ruling would give momentum to the anti-Zuma members in KwaZulu-Natal.

Besides the court ruling and legitimacy of the provincial leadership, the ANC conference was further threatened by internal conflict within the ANC countrywide.

Branches had questioned membership audits, the outcome of branch general meeting elections and factionalism within the party.

“The ANC is a minefield of problems, it is an organisation that is dying,” he added.

All the analysts dismissed any suggestion that Zuma was planning to remove Ramaphosa and engineer a political crisis within the ANC that would force the postponement of the conference. Analyst Ralph Mathekga said this was unlikely.

“That sounds far-fetched, but the situation within the ANC is desperate and people will certainly act desperately,” he said. – ericn@citizen.co.za

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