Johannesburg – As some of the ANC’s biggest and most influential provinces prepare for elective conferences, KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport and community liaison Peggy Nkonyeni has emerged as a dark horse in the race to succeed premier Sihle Zikalala.
The ANC in KZN, the party’s biggest province in terms of membership, will convene a provincial conference on a date yet to be announced, at which Zikalala could face a challenge from Nkonyeni for the ANC chairmanship.
Zikalala is also touted for the secretary-general position when the party elects its national leaders in December.
He is said to enjoy support from both the RET (Radical Economic Transformation) and CR22 factions for the position.
Nkonyeni is supported amongothers by the SACP, key allies of the governing party.
“As the SACP, we have not made any pronouncements yet regarding the provincial elective conference.
But considering the scarcity of very strong candidates, Peggy Nkonyeni appears to be a good choice.
The only problem is whether she’ll avail herself and contest the position,” SACP provincial secretary Themba Mthembu told Sunday World.
Mthembu added that Mike Mabuyakhulu was another strong candidate, but cited his legal woes as a hindrance.
Mabuyakhulu, who is former MEC for economic development and tourism, faces corruption charges related to allegedly accepting kickbacks for a 2013 North Sea Jazz festival that did not take place, but the money vanished.
Several regions that convened their elective conferences are understood to be toying with the idea of having Nkonyeni as provincial chairperson but were weighing their options.
Other names that were punted for the powerful position include Nomusa Dube, the finance MEC, and eThekwini metro mayor Mxolisi Kaunda.
“Comrades are weary that maybe, there are other people behind the scenes who want to dilute the ambitions of comrade Nomusa by pitting her with comrade Peggy,” said one senior leader.
Another party insider said Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu’s name was also discussed.
“There is a leadership crisis in the province, that is how comrade Senzo’s name came up. But he has a weakness of permanently holding grudges,” said the insider.
Zikalala’s future in the province hangs in the balance after being linked to a slate supporting Ramaphosa’s re-election.
Dissenting voices led by a strong faction of the RET forces want him out, claiming he has sold out.
In Mpumalanga, the race for the chairperson post has caused a rift between premier Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane and Peter Nyoni, a deputy director-general in the provincial government.
Nyoni told Sunday World that the party’s current provincial executive committee (PEC) was deeply divided and plagued by factional fights, as those who were still in the provincial structures would also contest for leadership positions in two weeks.
“Some of the leaders contesting had made a mess out of last year’s local government elections through the manipulation of bids and the national office knows about this thing, hence we had made so many calls to the national office to disband the PEC, so that everyone who is in the running could have a fair chance to contest for leadership.
“We can no longer trust this current PEC to take us to conference, hence other members of the ANC and the branches of the ANC have approached me, and some have even nominated me to stand as chair of the branch.
I am not in any faction of RET or CR, but I want what is best for the people of Mpumalanga,” he said.
One leader who is in the camp of Mtsweni-Tsipane said the premier was in the camp of Cyril Ramaphosa and she was enjoying a groundswell support in the branches.
“Refilwe is pro-Ramaphosa and she lives by his values and standards. We are going to win this conference,” said the leader who asked not to be named.
In the Eastern Cape, Ramaphosa could be losing his grip on the province as his support got fragmented by the realignment of ANC members in the build-up to its elective conference.
This comes after three regions, which held their conferences in December, endorsed the Eastern Cape provincial treasurer Babalo Madikizela to replace provincial chairperson
Madikizela’s first endorsement came from the regional conference of Ama-thole region and he was endorsed along with regional secretary Teris Ntutu for provincial secretary. Amathole region is known as the stronghold of the RET forces.
Although the Joe Gqabi region didn’t endorse any leadership, it is believed to be also in support of the other three (Amathole, Alfred Nzo and Nelson Mandela Bay).
But despite the provincial momentum, the group is known to differ on their national preferences.
Those close to Madikizela said he supports Paul Mashatile for the deputy president and wants Ramaphosa to remain president.
When contacted for comment, Madikizela admitted to having a good relationship with Mashatile, which has been for years.
He also praised Ramaphosa and said: “He has done a great job so far, even though we have been going through a lot as an organisation and the country.”
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