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It still remains to be seen whether President Cyril Ramaphosa will attend the KwaZulu-Natal provincial conference of the ANC in Durban this weekend.
This amid fears of how he will be received in former president Jacob Zuma’s stronghold. Party members in the province have often argued Ramaphosa is the architect of most of the former president’s woes that led to his imprisonment last year, among others.
In terms of numbers for the party, KZN province represents the largest in the country and its voice carries a lot of weight at conferences. It is also the “home ground” of the so-called RET faction that is pushing back the president’s renewal efforts.
Ramaphosa has since attended and closed the Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo conferences — which all pledged to support his re-election for a second term.
“He is not scared of going to KZN. He doesn’t regard KZN or any part of the country as a no-go area. ANC members are the same in KZN as any of the ANC members around the country,” a source close to the president, who did not want to be named, said.
“He will have no reason to behave any different with respect to KZN. The commitment and message of renewal and of unity in the ANC is a message that needs to be heard in KZN.”
The president himself has to demonstrate that the scandals around him are not something that are standing in his way.
The conference will take place at the Olive Convention Centre from July 22-24.
University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) political analyst Dr Fikile Vilakazi said it was important for Ramaphosa to attend the conference, because he is expecting to serve a second term.
“I think it’s important to go, because of the place the ANC is at in building towards the national conference. We know that the organisation is going through a leadership crisis‚ is in turmoil and the president himself has to demonstrate that the scandals around him are not something that are standing in his way.”
Ramaphosa also needs to show he is serious about the renewal project.
“He has to go there‚ he doesn’t have a choice. Being booed or not being well received should be the least of his worries.
“He seems to avoid KZN, where he fears being booed or not being well received. As a president that is working towards a place that says ‘I am ready to lead again’‚ he needs to show that authority that he is the president of all the factions.
“Even though he enjoys a lot of support in the province‚ Jacob Zuma is no longer the president and Ramaphosa needs to demonstrate that. Remember how he reacted when he was booed by the unions. He is the president‚ it comes with the territory‚” she said.
Provincial party spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said: “We have been told that the TG (treasurer-general), Paul Mashatile, will open the conference on Friday — it’s been confirmed — and the chairperson will close the conference.”
In a statement on Wednesday‚ Ntombela said the sitting is “a culmination of a smooth and robust process in hundreds of branch general meetings, which held their nomination processes”.
Ntombela said the province was in the process of preregistration of delegates in all regions.
On Thursday the province is expected to outline its readiness for the conference.
While a source close to Ramaphosa says the party leader will attend‚ ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said he would have to check with the president’s office.
The conference will see current provincial chair Sihle Zikalala fight for the widely contested position.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.