KwaZulu-Natal after Zuma

Nhlanhla Mtaka asks whether the Province’s sway within the ANC is sustainable.

After Zuma: Is the KZN ANC’s power and influence sustainable?

It is always my argument that real or modern politics is less about slogans, or in some cases numbers, than it’s about power and influence. On the issue of numbers, a particular group can have numbers, but that is of no use if numbers are not used in order to influence. Another problem with numbers is that they are fluid. Perhaps a rather simplistic example is that of Africans, who are a majority in South Africa, but they don’t have power or influence in the country’s economy.

In both political organisation’s as it is in government, influence denotes one’s ability to get others to act, think, or feel as one intends. As noted by R.J. Mokken and F. N. Stokmanin in Power and Influence as Political Phenomena, influence can also be a source of power.

As things stand within the African National Congress (ANC), the province of KwaZulu-Natal is important and others even state that it’s powerful and influential.

There are many reasons for this assertion. Out of 12 ANC Presidents in one hundred years the province has produced five: John Dube, Pixley Seme, Chief Albert Luthuli, Josiah Gumede and Jacob Zuma. It is also the home of ANC Youth League founder Antony Lembede and has produced some of the finest and most respected Mkhonto weSizwe combatants, communists and unionists.

According to the organisation’s records, the province has the biggest support base of 252 668 members. This not only serves to ensure the ANC wins provincial and local government elections, but also has made the province powerful and influential when it comes to decision-making.

Acknowledging the strength of his home province, President Jacob Zuma warned delegates attending a weekend conference that, “being a leading ANC province comes with many challenges”. He further advised that the province should “behave in a manner which is not factional and in a manner devoid of any arrogance”.

While there is a perception that KwaZulu-Natal is currently immune from internal conflict, Provincial Chairperson Dr. Zweli Mkhize, in his political report, accepted that “even though they [tendencies of ill-discipline and factionalism] may not be features of the ANC in our province, they remain symptoms of an organisation beginning to self-destruct and will also have a significant effect on the future of our movement”.

Surely this was an objective analysis by Mkhize, but I think his leadership and general membership in the province should start to look beyond Mangaung and Jacob Zuma. That is if it still wants to continue to influence decisions within the ANC.

Jacob Zuma, who has been able to use the influence of KwaZulu-Natal to advance his political career, will exit the political stage just like Mandela and Mbeki before him. He will soon be called “former president”. In Jacob Zuma lie the strengths and weaknesses of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. This then brings in the question of sustainability.

When Zuma finally exits as Head of the organisation and the country, the province will have to identify a new person of “national stature” who will, among other things, possess what American clinical psychologist and political strategist, Drew Westen, called “kerb appeal”. Westen describes this as a feeling voters get when they see a candidate a few times on television or hear him/her on radio and form an emotional impression.

Then the question is, what are the attributes of Jacob Zuma that make him such a pivotal figure in the sustainability of ANC power and influence in KwaZulu-Natal? It is true that according to some people Zuma is an augmented product beyond its intrinsic value. However, despite that, the power and influence of his home province has made him very strong, something that cannot be said of Julius Malema, for instance.

Currently Zuma has been a huge unifying factor in the province. Will this unity be sustained beyond Jacob Zuma? With him exiting the political stage in five years or so, will the remaining ANC leadership in the province be able to produce another candidate with mass appeal, thus sustaining power and influence?

Nhlanhla Mtaka is the executive director of the Ingabadi group, a political advisory and research company. He is also the chairperson of the Ingoyama Rural Development Forum secretariat. This article was first published by the Witness newspaper.


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