Durban - Once firmly united in the cause of getting Cyril Ramaphosa elected as ANC President in 2017, the leadership of the governing party’s Mzala Nxumalo (Zululand district) region in northern KwaZulu-Natal has now fragmented into two factions fighting for regional power.
Ahead of the Nasrec conference, the region, then under the chairmanship of the late Sipho Nkosi, broke ranks with the provincial ANC which was backing Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and backed Ramaphosa.
Its wish was granted when Ramaphosa narrowly took the party’s crown at Nasrec. In February 2020 Ramaphosa visited the region to thank it in an event which was held in the town of Vryheid, saying he was fulfilling an undertaking he made long ago.
However, almost two years later, things have changed as his backers have turned against each other, weakening a block he would desperately need in December this year as he fights for a second term.
The region is scheduled to hold its elective conference on the weekend of January 28 to 30 in Vryheid and two dominant factions are at each other's throats.
One slate is led by Sbu Mhlongo, the outgoing regional chairperson who, together with the late Nkosi, backed Ramaphosa at Nasrec. Mhlongo was until November last year the mayor of Uphongolo municipality along the border with eSwatini.
NEWS: In preparation of the KZN ANC provincial conference, the Mzala Nxumalo (Zululand) region which stood with Cyril Ramaphosa in 2017 at Nasrec, will host its elective conference at the end of Jan. The CR faction has now fragmented with Sbu Mhlongo now leading an RET slate. pic.twitter.com/gqPSzaZImB— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) January 15, 2022
Mhlongo is up against a faction that is led by Mpumelelo Zulu, who in his bid for regional power, is twinning with Zakhele Buthelezi, the long time regional secretary who has previously worked with Nkosi, Zulu and Mhlongo himself.
Mhlongo is allegedly being backed by the RET faction of the region, while Zulu is allegedly being backed by the CR22 faction.
But Zulu denied that, telling IOL on Tuesday that his campaign had nothing to do with Ramaphosa, and that it's a product of support from all structures of the region.
“Your first question regarding that the slate you see is pro-CR 22 is not correct. The manner in which we have engaged as Mzala Nxumalo comrades were very mature. The leadership you see is not a slate or a faction but it’s consolidated leadership from all sub-regions. The issue of President Cyril (Ramaphosa) being supported is not the priority of this conference.
“Any leadership chosen in our region will be responsible for the programme of action we have planned to undertake after the regional conference. The national and provincial conferences or leadership will also be informed by its programme of action,” Zulu said, when asked about his alleged links to the CR22 faction.
Mhlongo said that although he does not like discussing internal ANC issues with the media, he said he was aware that his region is heading for an elective conference.
“I don't discuss internal ANC processes in the media, but I can confirm that we are heading for our regional conference this month-end. About slates, I have seen four different slates with different names of regional memberships, not RET or CR17 (now CR22) memberships.
"On top of our agenda as ANC is to transform our country, our economy, job opportunities, renewal of our glorious movement, fighting corruption, flattening the Covid-19 curve, rebuild the organisation and its unity,” Mhlongo said.
The disintegration of the Mzala Nxumalo regional support for Ramaphosa comes after he lost another significant support in northern KwaZulu-Natal late last year when former Far North (Umkhanyakude district) ANC region strongman, Bethuel Mthethwa was not re-elected to retain his long time position as chairperson.
In 2017, Mthethwa was able to sway his region to defy the provincial leadership and back Ramaphosa.