ISSUES AT STAKE: Political battle lines in Zululand are drawn

THE battle between cadres Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the ANC national leadership has had far reaching ramifications with the contestation now trickling down to every branch of the country.

The ANC Musa Dladla region has long been a Jacob Zuma stronghold, so all eyes will be on the outcome in this region.

The result is particularly crucial as it not only contributes to provincial and national key decision-making, but also has a direct effect on who wrests control of the King Cetshwayo District and one of the fastest growing cities in the country – uMhlathuze.

While the rhetoric of unity has been repeatedly preached, even at the ruling party’s Provincial General Council at the University of Zululand last week, on the ground it is a different story.

Factionalism within the ANC and the concerning divisions within the party in the province and region will not be easily mended once the leadership fight is over.

This is a developing drama with inside stories, behind-the-scene stories, stories about power struggles and dialogues that are not openly spoken about, but thrashed out during secret caucuses.


Three-pronged struggle

Insiders within the party, however, have told the Zululand Observer that the leadership race for the Musa Dladla region is likely between current uMhlathuze City Mayor Mdu Mhlongo, King Cetshwayo District Mayor Nonhle Mkhulisi and former ANC Musa Dladla regional head, Bheki Ntuli.

With senior members within the ANC reportedly ‘not seeing eye to eye’ and the unions openly voicing their support for Ramaphosa, the showdown could throw in some surprises as on paper all three are supposedly Zuma loyalists.

Speculation is strong that Mhlongo could assume the seat of District Mayor, or even a provincial ministerial post, should his ambition to chair the ANC region comes to fruition. But the most strategic move by far is the reported proposal by Mhlongo to have the former ousted District Mayor Thembeka Mchunu in his camp, which would then also place her in the running for District Mayor.

While many party insiders say they do not see Thembeka Mchunu acceding to such an allegiance, the mere negotiations are a big talking point.

It is the most unlikely match by far, but what it could achieve is to possibly bring Senzo Mchunu’s camp into Mhlongo’s corner.

It is no secret that there was no love lost between the former mayor Thembeka Mchunu and her former deputy Thulani Mashaba, who was instrumental in seconding Mhlongo to his current position.

So the alleged union in itself raises some pressing discussion points, especially since Senzo Mchunu is set to become an influential ANC national office bearer should Ramaphosa win the presidency sprint.

Open race

But one should not rule out Ntuli, who is a popular and well-respected cadre serving as Chairperson of the ANC region for more than 12 years.

At this point, it is an open race and if Mkhulisi is unseated, expect to see changes at the helm of the district and city, which has a direct impact on ratepayers. While KZN has been known to back Dlamini-Zuma, we could see curve balls as the SACP and COSATU affiliates – SADTU and NEHAWU – have publicly declared their support for Ramaphosa.

Whatever the scenario, we are in for interesting times and fiery political wars in the next five months bound to leave casualties in its wake.

Ronelle Ramsamy
Deputy Editor

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