The ANC is not in a growth phase. For the past decade its trajectory has been downhill as it grapples with a radically changed opposition. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

THE ANC in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday rejected calls for an early conference, saying this would do more damage to the ruling party and cause further divisions.

The ANC Youth League called for an early elective conference for the ANC in the aftermath of its poor showing in the 2016 local government election — but the idea has not been taken up by party structures and has also been rejected by its allies.

The National Union of Mineworkers president Piet Matosa has also opposed the idea of an early conference, saying it would not help the ANC and the country, while the South African Communist Party has instead called for a consultative conference.

In its call for the ANC to elect new leadership before its scheduled conference in December 2017, the ANC Youth League said the party needed to renew itself and appoint young people to key positions if it were to appeal to more youthful voters.

The debate about an early conference also comes as there is increasing pressure on President Jacob Zuma to resign, with a group of party members last week marching to ANC headquarters in Johannesburg to hand over a memorandum demanding that Zuma and his entire national executive committee step down.

Super Zuma, the ANC’s provincial secretary in KwaZulu-Natal, told a media briefing in Durban that the party in the province had engaged in deep reflection during a three-day lekgotla, at which the party discussed its performance.

"We acknowledge that the party has committed some mistakes which resulted in the decline of our support in certain wards and losing some metros. We have noted calls for an early conference of consultative conference that will help the party to reflect on its current challenges.

"But it is our considered view that the ANC needs more time to engage robustly with its structures. At this stage the movement needs more time for introspection and self-correction," Zuma said.

"We believe that an early conference would not help the organisation to heal itself and deal with the current challenges. It will deny members of the ANC a chance to speak to their own movement. An early conference can only be a platform for the movement to tear itself apart," he said.

The ANC’s provincial secretary also said the ANC was looking forward to by-elections being held to decide the two problematic hung municipalities in Jozini and Nquthu, where neither the ANC nor the IFP had achieved an outright majority. Attempts to hold council meetings to elect municipal officials had so far failed.

"We believe that there should be by-elections in these two municipalities to allow the voters to choose their own government. We have seen that the stalemate in these municipalities has affected the service delivery to the people living under these municipalities," said Zuma.

He denied claims that ANC councillors had been acting as spoilers in these municipalities, disrupting the council meetings meant to result in the election of council officials.

Super Zuma said the provincial lekgotla had also emphasised the importance of local government and had thus established a special unit that will monitor and equip members who are deployed in different municipalities.

With Natasha Marrian