Ethekwini revives Mkhize’s ambition

Johannesburg- A deal that saw the eThekwini metro saved from being captured by the DA has revived the presidential ambitions of embattled former health minister Zweli Mkhize.

Sunday World understands that eThekwini, which is the ANC’s biggest in terms of numbers and has significant influence on who leads the party, has become a launch pad for the campaign to oust President Cyril Ramaphosa at the party’s elective conference next year.

Ramaphosa’s detractors are punting Mkhize, who was dumped by Ramaphosa from cabinet following the Digital Vibes scandal, as a candidate to block the president’s second term.

Mkhize, former president Jacob Zuma and suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule are credited with swaying opposition parties in eThekwini to dump the DA and install the ANC’s Mxolisi Kaunda as mayor.

Kaunda is a known Zuma supporter and his victory is interpreted as the consolidation of power by Magashule’s supporters, who are organised under a faction called the Radical Economic Transformation forces (RET). Magashule’s supporters are now credited with saving the party the embarrassment of losing another major city to the opposition, as was the case with Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane.

Emboldened by the victory, which came after a last-minute deal with Zuma’s ally, Abantu Batho Congress leader Philani Mavundla, RET forces now want Mkhize to succeed Ramaphosa. At the time he was ANC treasurer general, Mkhize first launched his presidential campaign in the run-up to the party’s elective conference in Nasrec in 2017 but withdrew from the race.

Sunday World understands that KwaZulu-Natal wants at least two leaders to make up the composition of the ANC’s top six. Though he would not be drawn into disclosing their candidates for the ANC’s presidency, RET chairperson Nkosentsha Shezi said their project to remove Ramaphosa was well in motion.

“The mandate is clear, we must save our beloved ANC by ensuring that Ramaphosa is not re-elected. We have done a lot of work on the ground. Though I will not divulge names I can assure you that we have capable leaders in this province who will contest national office. KZN is the biggest and influential province, and we cannot afford not to have leaders in the top structure. The current top six has failed dismally,” said Shezi.

He said that KZN was united that the next president or secretary general of the party should come from the province.  “We have successfully lobbied other provinces for their buy in this view.”

Shezi said RET forces had stepped up to ensure that the eThekwini metro was saved because it was an important region for RET.

This paper understands that besides Zuma stepping in to rescue the metro from falling into the hands of a coalition of opposition parties, eThekwini region’s powerful politician Zandile Gumede was also instrumental in sealing the deal.

“You must understand that the RET forces want to use eThekwini as their base leading up to the national elective conference. Winning the metro is a show of force for the RET faction. “Talks are also at an advance stage for comrade Zweli [Mkhize] to be the face of the election campaign,” said a PEC member. He said there was also talk that provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli was being touted for a post in the party’s top six.

An ANC national executive committee member sympathetic to Ramaphosa said the loss of metros to the DA and the role of Magashule’s supporters in saving eThekwini had boosted the campaign to remove the president.

“This is definitely a different conjuncture. We never lost Ekurhuleni in 2016; we never lost eThekwini. In the north of KZN there was a bloodbath. We are in the worse situation [compared to 2016].

“The fertile ground is there. Senzo Mchunu (water and sanitation minister) and Bheki Cele (police minister) are not on the ground,” he said.

Mchunu and Cele are Ramaphosa’s allies in the province.

However, the leader said the electoral losses could not be blamed on Ramaphosa, adding there was a confluence of factors such as poor service delivery, corruption among others, which had led to losses.

For more political news and views from this week’s paper, click here. 

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