NEWS ANALYSIS: ANC leadership has work cut out for 2014 elections
AFTER two weeks of celebrations in KwaZulu- Natal, the Mangaung honeymoon is likely to be short-lived for the newly elected African National Congress (ANC) leadership as serious challenges plague the party in a number of provinces, threatening its organisational stability ahead of the general elections next year.
The ANC started the new year with amplified talk of unity within its ranks, signalling an admission that the party emerged fractured out of Mangaung, with senior leaders that had previously played a key role in the party left out in the cold.
The cracks seemed well concealed in KwaZulu-Natal, with the ANC demonstrating its organisational muscle — with an eye on next year’s poll — through a series of lectures, minirallies, blitz campaigns and the January 8 statement weekend rally at Kings Park stadium.
However, the new leadership has inherited an organisation that is near dysfunctional in several parts of the country. A key test for the new group would be in how it manages the process to elect a new leadership in the Free State, expected to be convened in less than three months.
Sufficient evidence was presented last month before the Constitutional Court that the disbanded pro- Zuma leadership under Premier Ace Magashule stole the conference.
Ironically, Mr Magashule — who was a central figure in the conference that was declared invalid and unlawful — is a member of the temporary team tasked to prepare for a new provincial conference. He was embarrassed by the court judgment and he is likely to again seek control of the province, including again keeping his opponents outside .
If the conference is to make the three months deadline, Luthuli House will have to quickly introduce the provincial task team to structures, and also provide clarity on its mandate and the rules guiding its preparations for the conference.
The upcoming provincial conference in the Eastern Cape could also reignite the pre-Mangaung tensions, when factions took control of regions and branches, and excluded delegates that were seen to be hostile to their camp.
Even before Mangaung started, talk of a fightback had already emerged in the Eastern Cape, with the disgruntled leadership of the OR Tambo region — the second-biggest region of the ANC in terms of membership — plotting to lead the campaign to oust the pro-Zuma provincial executive committee.
In the Northern Cape, the future of provincial chairman John Block is subject to the courts. He is facing corruption charges and is expected back in the dock later this month.
And yet, Mr Block is fresh from re-election in June last year, where he got 496 of the 531 votes from conference delegates — a sign of his popularity in the province.
His supporters are likely to rally behind him in his next court appearance, and it would be interesting to see which national leaders will attend the proceedings — after Mr Block secured Northern Cape’s support for President Jacob Zuma in Mangaung.
The future is uncertain for Mr Block’s counterpart in Limpopo, Cassel Mathale as well, who also has criminal charges hanging over his head. Divisions in Limpopo are so entrenched that Mr Mathale’s enemies have already declared him guilty even before he is charged.
Mr Mathale remains the premier of Limpopo at Mr Zuma’s mercy. His leadership — and that of other provincial leaders who were against Mr Zuma’s re-election in Mangaung — is faced with a crisis of legitimacy. This is the case especially in the Western Cape and Gauteng.
In North West, ANC members are killing each other.
A few days after the provincial secretary was shot at his house in the early hours of the morning, regional secretary of the province’s Kenneth Kaunda region Obuti Chika was shot dead outside his house.
The removal of former ANC secretary-general Thandi Modise from the ANC top six may also have implications for her continuing as North West premier, as ANC chairman in the province Supra Mahumapelo — Mr Zuma’s chief campaigner there — will seek to consolidate his position.
Mr Mahumapelo has already weakened his opponent and provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge, after Mr Mataboge’s ANC membership had been suspended a few days ahead of Mangaung.
Those supporting Mr Mataboge are planning to fight his suspension, but the immediate battle will be at the upcoming regional conference of the Ngaka Modiri Molema region in Mafikeng, which was last year disbanded for failing to elect a district mayor preferred by the provincial executive committee.
Despite the huge resources invested, uniting the ANC has proven to be near impossible. The ANC’s centenary flame, which was seen as a symbol of unity during the party’s 100-year celebrations, criss-crossed South Africa last year in a bid to pull members together. Luthuli House was still called back to put out fires in some regions.
If the general elections next year were to result in a drop in the ANC’s electoral support, it would be an indictment of the new leadership.