OPINION: Forget about a 54th ANC Conference in 2017


It is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that the African National Congress (ANC) will hold its 54th National Conference this December.

If you are a gambling person, don’t put your money on it.

Secretary-General of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, has dealt with a considerable amount during his tenure as the chief administrator of the governing party. Under ‘normal’ circumstances one would not envy his job.

However, when one examines the cards that he has been dealt in KwaZulu-Natal, one finds it impossible to believe that the problems which have manifested themselves in that province can be resolved in time for the ANC’s December conference.

Many do not like to hear it, but KwaZulu-Natal remains the ANC’s most influential province. The 54th National Conference cannot possibly happen without it…well it could happen but that would plunge the governing party into untold chaos.

If the ANC’s problems in KZN were just about the top brass, they could conceivably be resolved early enough. However, in the build-up to the 54th National Conference, it has become increasingly apparent that it is the grassroots of the party in that region that have driven the divisions.

That talks to the very core of the ANC and with just over a month left until the conference, it is impossible to envisage some form of resolution.

Just last month the world got to see what happens when a faction which supports Cyril Ramaphosa wins a provincial conference, when Oscar Mabuyane was elected the new chairman of the Eastern Cape. For those who missed it, a violent brawl broke out.

Just weeks have passed since that conference and the top six of the ANC have been forced to intervene in the Eastern Cape, as the warring factions of the party refuse to compromise. This in a province whose problems manifest themselves at the top levels.

The Northern Cape, which appointed Zamani Saul as its new provincial chairman earlier this year experienced similar problems to the Eastern Cape, without the violence. Saul – who wants the ANC to stick to its traditions – is a staunch supporter of Ramaphosa to become the next President of the governing party.

Again though, the differences experienced in the Northern Cape were top level. In both instances the skulduggery witnessed was astonishing – with there being countless attempts to disrupt the conference.

KwaZulu-Natal’s problems are so much more entrenched and complicated. Historically this has been one of the provinces that has entered a national conference fully united. It takes a considerable amount to shatter that kind of unity and likewise it will take a considerable to fix what is now broken.

Then there is the small matter of the courts, which are likely to be exposed to the factional battles of the ANC in KZN again, after the ‘illegitimate’ KZN  PEC filed papers to appeal a decision by the Pietermaritzburg High Court, which annulled its election.

When one considers how long it took to resolve the disputes at the province’s eThekwini Region (a major branch of the governing party), one gets a glimpse of how protracted the current provincial court battle could be.

If KZN does not resolve its issues, there is not a chance in hell the province will allow the National Conference to go ahead.