The so-called African National Congress ‘rebel’ members in KwaZulu-Natal say they are positive that a political solution can be found to the province’s factional divisions following a meeting with President Jacob Zuma on Monday.
“We appreciate the gesture and invitation of the national officials. We understand the value and significance of being invited as they were under no obligation to engage with us,” Sthembiso Mshenu, spokesperson for the ‘rebels’, told African News Agency on Tuesday morning.
The meeting took place at Durban’s beachfront Coastlands Hotel on Monday, and according to Mshenu, it was characterised by “frank and candid engagement”.
The mother body is trying to consolidate its biggest provincial voting block before the December national elective conference.
KwaZulu-Natal has been locked in a factional battle over its disputed 2015 provincial conference at which Sihle Zikalala was elected ANC KZN chairperson, beating opponent and then incumbent Senzo Mchunu.
The dispute eventually led to the Pietermaritzburg High Court, which earlier this month ruled in favour of the rebels, saying the 2015 conference was invalid.
Provincial ANC leaders last week filed notice to appeal the ruling, citing time constraints, but emphasised continuation of the appeals process would depend on discussions with the National Executive Committee (NEC). Provincial leaders met with the NEC over the weekend to discuss a possible appeal.
On Tuesday, Mshenu told ANA that Zuma, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Joe Phaahla and other NEC “deployees” were present at the meeting while Senzo Mchunu and Mike Mabuyakhulu spoke on behalf of the so-called rebels.
The invitation to engage with the president and NEC was made via ANC deputy secretary general Jesse Duarte, according to Mshenu.
He said that at the meeting, Zuma apologised on behalf of officials and the NEC for taking so long to meet with them, but did not offer any reason as to why officials had not met with the disgruntled members after the 2015 conference, despite their numerous appeals.
“If this had taken place two years earlier, we wouldn’t be in this position. Nevertheless, better late than never,” he said. “What is done is done, and we must now confront today’s challenges,” he said.
Mshenu said that Mabuyakhulu and Zikalala met on Monday morning to discuss a way forward, which included preliminaries on setting up of a provincial task team. “But first we must void the illegal provincial executive committee,” he said.
It was imperative that “normalcy be restored” in the province, he said.