Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership of the governing party in KwaZulu-Natal has been consolidated after two key allies were named as new mayors of eThekwini and Msunduzi municipalities.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has been rocked by leadership disputes, factional infighting and political assassinations. This led to the party losing more than 10% of its support in the May 8 elections, receiving 54.22% of the votes, compared with 64.52% in the 2014 elections.

However, ANC provincial chair and premier Sihle Zikalala has been credited for bringing a truce between the warring factions and rallying the province behind Ramaphosa. Zikalala has been driving Ramaphosa’s reform agenda in the province, which is the ANC’s biggest in terms of membership, in striving for a clean, efficient and corruption-free provincial government.

On August 13 the ANC provincial executive committee announced its decision to “redeploy” all ANC members serving in the executive committees of the crucial municipalities. Those affected included former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and former Msunduzi mayor Themba Njilo, who was axed alongside his deputy Thobani Zuma and Msunduzi municipality speaker Jabu Ngubo.

The governing party in the province ascribed the redeployment to the poor performance of their respective municipalities. In Gumede’s case, her axing came after the provincial working committee had recommended to the provincial executive committee that she be recalled as she was not fit to hold office.

Gumede is a key ally of former president Jacob Zuma and was suspended as mayor in June after charges of racketeering, corruption and money laundering were levelled against her and other officials. The charges related to the city’s solid waste contract of more than R200m, in which Gumede was accused of using her political influence.

Gumede and eight of her co-accused, which includes eThekwini deputy speaker Mondli Mthembu, appeared in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court last Thursday. The court heard that the state needed four more months to complete its investigations, and that more arrests are imminent. The case was postponed to January 2020.

In a media briefing in Durban on Thursday, ANC provincial secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli announced that the party would nominate notable Ramaphosa allies transport and community liaison MEC Mxolisi Kaunda for the eThekwini mayoral position and former finance MEC Belinda Scott for the deputy mayor post.

The party will nominate former social development MEC Weziwe Thusi as the next speaker of council, while ward 22 councillor Sibongiseni Mkhize is set to become the new chief whip.

In the Msunduzi municipality, the ANC will nominate member of the provincial legislature Mzimkhulu Thebolla as mayor and Manilal Inderjit as his deputy, while Eunice Majola is set to become council speaker and former ANC Youth League regional secretary and current councillor in Umgungundlovu district municipality Vusi Ntshangase, the chief whip.

“The provincial executive committee calls on the citizens of both eThekwini and Msunduzi municipalities to give support to the incoming leadership and to work with them,” said Ntuli.

Zikalala, who was conspicuous by his absence in the August 13 media briefing, attended Thursday’s press conference, in what Unisa political analyst professor Lesiba Teffo described as “a seal of authority”.

“He was nailing his colours to the mast [regarding which faction he supports]. He was saying let there be no double guessing of his position in relation to the factions [within the party],” Teffo said.

He said it would be to Ramaphosa’s advantage to get people who are aligned to him as new executive leaders for the two municipalities.

“We cannot run away from the fact that the battle is on, there are two factions [fighting within the ANC]. If indeed those people are aligned to him, it’s a plus for him [Ramaphosa], it’s to his advantage,” said Teffo.

Stellenbosch University political analyst professor Amanda Gouws said the incoming leadership of the two municipalities was “probably good” for Ramaphosa, who she described as “beleaguered at the moment”.

“It seems like the Zuma faction is really trying to undermine him at every chance it gets.”