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New provincial ANC leadership must transform KZN urgently

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Picture: Phumlani Thabethe – New ANC KZN chairperson Siboniso Duma was elected at the party’s provincial conference held at the Olive Convention centre in Durban this past weekend. Writer says under Duma’s leadership, the ANC in the province has effect a revival of the economy as soon as possible.

By Professor B Dikela Majuqwana

The 9th provincial conference of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) began on Friday. When it ended on Sunday, July 24, a new provincial leadership was in place, reflecting what amounts to a total change of guard. The previous top five leaders led by Sihle Zikalala (chairperson) were replaced. They included Mike Mabuyakhulu who served as the deputy chairperson but later stepped down following corruption accusations, Mdumiseni Ntuli (secretary), Sipho Hlomuka (deputy secretary) and Nomusa Dube-Ncube (treasurer).

The newly elected leadership is now led by Siboniso Duma as the provincial chairperson. Not much is known about Duma. Some regard him as unknown in the KZN ANC trenches. Those who will be serving alongside Duma is Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu as the deputy, Bheki Mtolo (secretary), Sipho Hlomuka (returning as deputy secretary) and Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba (treasurer).

ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa was present on Sunday to review proceedings at the conference and to bring closure to what many regard as a success as little time was spent bickering over credentials of voting delegates.

As the President went about reading his congratulatory speech, it was obvious he was anxious about the attitude of the new KZN leadership to his plans for re-election at the head of the ANC in December 2022. One of the deciding factors over the election outcome in KZN was a strong feeling among delegates that former President Zuma has been subjected to unnecessary persecution since Ramaphosa took office.

When Zuma was arrested in July 2021, KZN and parts of Gauteng exploded into riots leading to immense economic damage. If Ramaphosa had any hopes that the new Duma leadership in KZN was on his side he was in for yet another shock in his life. Duma did not waste time in his closing speech to raise the Zuma question and to attack the judiciary for taking sides in ANC factional politics.

It should be clear by now to Ramaphosa and his supporters that only a miracle will change the stance of the KZN ANC in championing justice for Zuma and in being critical of Ramaphosa’s role in deciding Zuma’s fate.

What has made this KZN provincial conference so tightly contested is not only local KZN considerations but also the recent issuing of the Zondo Commission Report into State Capture. The premise of the long report is that the Zuma administration before Ramaphosa assumed office in 2018 was captured. The Zondo Report gives a long account of wrong doings in state administration.

Zuma’s government has been labelled as “nine wasted years” by the media and President Ramaphosa himself even though he formed part of it as Deputy President.

Meanwhile, not a single commentator has found any specific wrongdoing linked to Zuma himself.

When Zuma was sentenced for 15 months in prison it was because he had defied the constitutional court and not because he had been found to be corrupt. Therefore, the choice of candidates for election has been shaped by the perception of an unfolding constitutional injustice perpetrated by judges who see themselves as being politically omnipotent and capable of setting ANC leaders up against each other.

If Ramaphosa is somehow a beneficiary of the decisions taken by the judges in jailing Zuma in 2021, then it goes without saying that his plans for re-election are set to be frustrated or brought to an end in December. One cannot see how the new Duma leadership can be swayed away from supporting Zuma. Given that KZN is among the biggest ANC provinces, branches will without a doubt want to reject a continuation of Ramaphosa at the head of the ANC. It does not help since Ramaphosa took over from Zuma, things have been moving from bad to worse each passing year.

In the face of rising crime, unemployment, poverty, runaway illegal immigration, rising food and fuel prices, Ramaphosa has been reported to be allegedly hiding a crime involving theft of millions of US dollars from his farm – what is now called Phala-Phala Farmgate. This kind of conduct by an ANC leader in the highest office of the country has been a sore point among delegates at the KZN ANC conference.

As a result, many feel that much will be gained by the ANC if the party sees Ramaphosa’s departure.

KZN is South Africa’s second populous province after Gauteng.

It has many challenges, especially poverty and unemployment. After the July riots that caused an estimated R50 billion damage to the economy, there followed unprecedented floods this year. These added a further estimated R23bn billion in costs due to damage to infrastructure. These two disasters were major points of discussion by delegates before and during the 9th provincial conference.

As a result, in his closing speech, Duma bemoaned the attitude of the national government in responding to the multiple disasters faced by KZN.

He pointed out that the ANC government under Ramaphosa has been feeding KZN promises leading to frustration. In what I consider a courageous and necessary move, Duma broached the subject of making his province self-sufficient in financial resources to develop itself and to respond to future disasters. His proposal is that KZN consider a provincial sovereign fund and how to resource it and whether regular voluntary public contributions can help achieve the goal. Sceptics will laugh at Duma’s vision, even claim to know it is not achievable.

Either way, I believe Duma’s idea of economic self-reliance by province is a goal worth pursuing. I happen to be a keen enthusiast for cooperative enterprise and Duma’s keenness to see this form of enterprise widespread as a vehicle for winning resources for self-sufficiency is commendable.

KZN will be doing well in fashioning for itself a provincial financial strategy including possibly a provincial cooperative bank in the hands of local bond holders and users to drive local economies. But before we get there, the province must set out to build a productive economy to get people into jobs with skills and knowledge to produce according to what locals need.

Majuqwana is the Head of Engineering at the University of Zululand. He writes in his personal capacity.

This article is original to The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.