KZN South Coast now the key battleground for the Ramaphosa campaign


KwaZulu-Natal, the South Coast, home of the Protea Banks and Mzwandile Mkhwanazi – a three-term Regional Secretary who has consistently been swimming against the Jacob Zuma current – much to the chagrin of many colleagues in that province.

However – as the African National Congress prepares for its 54th National Conference this December – there are signs, for the first time in many moons, that the tide is beginning to turn.

Mkhwanazi has emerged as the forerunner to take over as the ANC’s Regional Chairman on the Lower South Coast.

Actually, those privy to the developments in that region do not think Mkhwanazi can lose, at this juncture.

His biggest challenge will likely come from the current Mayor of the region’s Ugu District Municipality, Mondli Chiliza. Chiliza took over from Tolomane Mnyayiza, who died while in office.

So, while Chiliza is the man in charge at Ugu, a vacuum was created in the regional leadership structures of the ANC, and Mkhwanazi looks best positioned to exploit the opening that has presented itself.

By all accounts, the situation on the Lower South Coast is a peculiar one really. The PEC in KwaZulu-Natal is loyal to President Jacob Zuma and expected to support the campaign of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in that province.

The PEC in KwaZulu is also a supporter of Ugu Mayor Chiliza, who is also the Region’s Deputy Chairman. On that logic, Chiliza should be the forerunner, but sources privy to the developments in that region do not think anybody contesting against Mkhwanazi will accumulate the requisite numbers to win.

“For Chairperson, there is one real candidate for Chairperson in the one faction. Mzwandile probably won’t be contested. If that position is contested, the person competing against him won’t meet the threshold if he contests his position,” a source close to the regional politics on the Lower South Coast told SABreaking News this week.

But, why is that the case? Why is a Regional Secretary who is widely considered a pro-Ramaphosa candidate making significant headway in what is technically a pro-Zuma region?

Well, the situation we have been presented with – which might be proven wrong when the RGCs finally sit – is quite complicated really, if not bizarre.

Perhaps, it is also worth noting, before we continue, that a Mkhwanazi victory does not guarantee anything for the Ramaphosa campaign. It merely helps gather momentum, momentum which Ramaphosa desperately needs.

There are two main factions on the Lower South Coast…the obvious ones. The Dlamini-Zuma camp and the Ramaphosa camp.

However, there are two sub-factions, if you will. Two of them are believed to be aligned to Mkhwanazi, but have different views on who should fill the other key leadership positions.

Herein lies the rub.

“He (Mkhwanazi) is supported by three factions, all aligned to him. So, he is the common Chairperson for all of them,” said the source.

According to our source, the real bunfight will manifest itself when candidates compete for the Regional Secretary position that Mkhwanazi vacates. But more on that later.

Even if Mkhwanazi does conquer the Lower South Coast, it will be one battle in a major war. The positions of the PEC in KwaZulu-Natal are ultimately a reflection of what the majority in the province want.

At this juncture, as it stands, KZN is still a Dlamini-Zuma block, along with the Free State, the North West and Mpumalanga. And let’s be clear, there are many on the Lower South Coast who do not fancy the idea of a Ramaphosa Presidency.

“The Lower South Coast belongs to Mzwandile, which is in conflict with the PEC. Mzwandile is defying everything. Whether he wins or not, he will defy. It won’t change. Mzwandile is a Zweli Mkhize, Senzo Mchunu, Cyril Ramaphosa guy. He has never bought into the Zuma business.”

Our source says the tide is turning quickly though, adding that the Mkhwanazi victory – people are already crowning him – will see the Ramaphosa Express gather significant momentum in the final weeks and months of this election cycle.

The one aspect that is playing in the Mkhwanazi camp’s favour is the small matter of a family that has been accused of capturing the South African State. The Gupta saga is a source of major frustration within the ranks of the ANC, even in KwaZulu-Natal.

That very aspect of State Capture has also captured the imagination of the Ramaphosa campaign. In fact, it is central to that campaign. All it needs is a tiny spark on the Lower South Coast. A Mkhwanazi victory will be that spark, a point of entry into other regions of the province that might still be on the fence, albeit in an unofficial capacity.

“Cyril can still emerge hey. The Gupta thing is really getting onto the nerves of everyone. Because Cyril’s campaign is the Guptas, it centres around the Guptas and the Gupta issue is irritating to everyone. To be sitting here and to think foreigners still have control over us,” said the source.

The thing about Mkhwanazi is that he is a seasoned campaigner. Despite the tide having pushed against him for so long, he has always pushed back harder. That probably stands him in good stead ahead of the RGCs and PGCs, where the key is winning over hearts and minds.

“Everyone is getting irritated by it, so he (Cyril) might emerge. He has the SG (Mantashe) and the SG has got numbers. Look, in essence, if Mzwandile wins it will be the third fall out in the region anyway. The region will survive, even if Mzwandile wins.

“They need him (Mkhwanazi) hey. He is a very powerful guy. So, they need him. This group that is against the province (KZN) is led by the Lower South Coast.”

By Siya Mchunu