With fewer friends in the ANC than before, former president Jacob Zuma has increasingly looked outside the party for support during his ongoing brushes with the law.
The glue that holds these pro-Zuma formations together is their declared commitment to radical economic transformation as the policy they insist the ANC government should champion.
Given that the slogan gained significant appeal within the ANC under Zuma, the potential to further divide the party is higher and the ANC and its alliance partners are not impressed, more so with the 2019 general elections around the corner. Some of the structures are said to be operating within the ANC.
At a local economic summit in Durban last week, ANC provincial interim leader Sihle Zikalala warned against an upsurge of social formations decrying exclusion from the local economy.
This is the campaign theme for one of the notorious pro-Zuma groupings, the Delangokubona Business Forum.
“Government cannot accept criminal elements and bad behaviour to undermine economic transformation agenda,” Zikalala said. Radical economic transformation was not “synonymous with hooligans and looting”.
Without mentioning Delangokubona by name, speaker after speaker condemned “the elements of criminality that are disrupting the local economy”. The group stands accused of demanding 30% of the value of construction projects, particularly in eThekwini, without doing any actual work.
Numerous business people and government officials have told City Press that the forum resorts to intimidation tactics when their demands are not met, in most instances putting a stop to projects. The latest one to be affected is the multimillion-rand Hammarsdale interchange on the N3 highway.
Some have claimed that the group is being used as a third force of sorts in the business world, interrupting projects on behalf of major players who have been unsuccessful in bidding for tenders.
Labour federation Cosatu’s KwaZulu-Natal secretary, Edwin Mkhize, said the ANC is “taking some measures to heal itself, but while it is doing so there are some segments holding it behind”. Mkhize said “some of the organisations surrounding Zuma do not operate within the ambit, culture and tradition that we know in the ANC”.
“If we are not careful, we will have a situation where we have something that we cannot stop in the future. Sometimes, even when something works in your favour, if it is wrong, you must be able to say that this is not right.
“The ANC must not allow structures that will just be formed and portray themselves as progressive and operate within the ANC, when they actually are not the resemblance of the tradition and culture of the ANC, because that thing will definitely cause divisions,” he said.
SA Communist Party provincial secretary Themba Mthembu said if the ANC lost support in the upcoming elections, it would largely be because of third forces.
In addition to Delangokubona, other formations who have thrown their weight behind the former president include the National Funeral Practitioners’ Association of SA (Nafupa SA) and the SA Natives’ Forum.
Delangokubona’s national chairperson, Thabani Mzulwini, said their “main principle is looking out for people”.
“We are not a political party and we are not anti government, we are just in favour of people getting what they deserve. If government does not do right by people, we take them to court.”
He said the forum places particular emphasis on radical economic transformation and looks at the cause holistically, even from an education perspective.
He cited as an example a case in Durban’s Umlazi township, where a dispute between the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union and government resulted in schooling being interrupted.
“We have taken it upon ourselves to engage the MEC of education to tell him to intervene, because kids must go to school. Schooling is a fundamental part of achieving radical economic transformation and becoming financially independent.”
He said the 30% demand is outlined in the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act and that wherever government conducts business there must be “contractor participation goals”.
According to the act, those bidding for products and services worth R30 million or more must subcontract at least 30% of the value of the contract to exempted micro enterprises or qualifying small businesses.
“Politicians are opposed to this because when they agree on contracts or give out tenders, they then receive major kickbacks. That is why they are against us,” said Mzulwini.
“We are insulted in the media, but we are ready for anything because we know the truth and are willing to die for it.”
Mzulwini said the forum’s members are acquiring skills necessary for their kind of work.
“We negotiate with people. If they don’t hear us and meet the demand, we then stop work on those sites. Those sites must close shop and no work must be done until we can find each other.”
SA NATIVES’ FORUM
While other organisations rallying around Zuma jumped at the chance to speak to his supporters outside court last week, the SA Natives’ Forum opted to remain anonymous.
They did the same during a night vigil a day before Zuma’s court appearance, where some speakers criticised the ANC, particularly President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Gauteng-based Shampene Mphaloane and Khathi Dikobo are leaders of the non-governmental organisation.
They said the intention behind their Western Cape High Court application for a permanent stay of Zuma’s prosecution is to become a part of history by achieving “a landmark judgment”.
We are prepared to fight it all the way to the Constitutional Court, said Dikobo.
The social justice formation is also defending Khanya Cekeshe, a student activist jailed for five years for setting fire to a police van in Braamfontein during fees must fall protests in 2016.
In future, said Mphaloane, the plan would be to avoid representing individuals and take on issues affecting groups, particularly constitutional matters and policy failures in government.
Dikobo said that, as an example, the SA Human Rights Commission had a low rate of prosecution, despite the number of cases that land on its desk.
In cases where the law was flawed, the NGO intends to put pressure on Parliament to make changes.
Dikobo said the organisation is self-funded and would rather not take money from donors as this would make it vulnerable to “infiltration”.
In recent months, this group has been criticised for its radical stance on big players in the funeral industry. It is lobbying for undertakers that are not black owned to be barred from doing business, particularly in townships.
The group has endorsed the call for radical economic transformation, going so far as to present Zuma with numerous awards for his contribution to the cause.
Last week, Nafupa’s secretary-general, Nkosentsha Shezi, called Zuma the father of radical economic transformation when he addressed thousands of Zuma supporters outside court.