ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala has defended Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s support of Thabo Mbeki in 2007, saying that she remained in the ANC after losing, unlike Cyril Ramaphosa who deserted the party for big business.
Replying to comments made by National Executive Committee member Bheki Cele who said that Dlamini-Zuma did not support the Zuma camp at the watershed conference held at Polokwane in 2007, Zikalala said even after she was defeated she remained in the ANC.
“She never left the ANC after she lost,” he said.
Dlamini-Zuma ran for the position of deputy president on the Thabo Mbeki slate which lost at that conference and resulted in the establishment of the Congress of the People by some of Mbeki’s supporters.
“There are people who were elected to be secretary-general, when they were not appointed to Cabinet they left the ANC and went to business. The ANC had a secretary general when President (Nelson) Mandela was president, when he appointed Thabo Mbeki as deputy president, others comrades remained. The then secretary-general packed his bags and went to the private sector,” Zikalala said, referring to Ramaphosa who left the ANC and went to make his fortune in big business.
“If comrade Bheki Cele says that Nkosazana was not with us, we want to tell him that she was there, she was a member of the ANC. She never left the ANC; we are not going to allow people who bring about divisions,” he charged.
“Other people saw us respecting them, some of them in 2012 were nowhere in structures, we went out and pulled them back to structures. We are not afraid to say ‘yes this one messed up’, but we don’t regret going and bringing them back into the fold. It was our responsibility to unite the ANC and we will continue to do so.”
Ramaphosa is said to have been Mandela’s preferred candidate to succeed him, but the position ultimately went to Mbeki.
This year ahead of the ANC’s national elective conference, Ramaphosa is considered a frontrunner alongside Dlamini-Zuma.
The former African Union chairperson enjoys the support of President Jacob Zuma as well as the current provincial executive committee of KwaZulu Natal, led by Zikalala.
Some believe that the provincial conference of 2015 was rigged in favour of the Zikalala group in order to pave the way for Dlamini-Zuma in the province.
The Pietermaritzburg High Court will make a judgment in the coming weeks that is likely to prove or disprove that view.
The current legal challenge as to the legitimacy of Zikalala’s provincial committee has been championed by ousted chairperson Senzo Mchunu’s supporters.
Last week both Mchunu and Cele revealed where their loyalties lie ahead of the hotly-contested national conference.
Mchunu responded to a view held by President Jacob Zuma that there was no tradition in the ANC which dictated that the deputy president became the president.
Mchunu said that if it had merely been coincidence thus far, the ANC should have yet another coincidence this year.
“Comrade Cyril does have support comrades, serious support, don’t let people fool you. He has support starting from here in KwaZulu Natal, he has support in KwaZulu Natal. To whoever asks where is the support, I will say I am one of those who support him,” Mchunu told a meeting on the lower south coast last week.
The region was stripped of its powers by the current provincial executive committee recently in what was believed to be a power play ahead of the elective conference in December. The secretary of that region, Mzwandile Mkhwanazi, has also thrown his weight behind Ramaphosa.
Meanwhile, Cele told branches in Umlazi on Sunday that Zuma benefitted from the unofficial tradition of the deputy president becoming president when he succeeded Mbeki, but now was pretending that it was not common practice.
“Let us not allow ourselves to be confused. We have established traditions even if they are not written down,” Cele said.