KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng ANC structures will hold provincial elective conferences this weekend amid uncertainty about whether party unity will be realised.
There is hope the KwaZulu-Natal conference will produce united leadership similar to the 50-50 consensus achieved at the national elective conference in December.
The two camps have reportedly reached consensus on Sihle Zikalala becoming the next chairperson.
One side comprises those who support the disbanded 2015 provincial executive committee (PEC), which Zikalala led, and the other side opposed that PEC.
With former provincial chairperson Zikalala guaranteed to remain at the helm, tense tussles could ensue over the remaining positions.
The stronger Zikalala camp is likely to monopolise all the top five office-bearing positions.
All indications were that the 2015 PEC could be re-elected unless the national executive committee (NEC) or President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is expected to attend, personally intervened.
Unlike at the national elective conference in December where the two camps were of equal strength, the Durban provincial conference will be fought on an unequal footing.
At the national elective conference, nobody was certain whether Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma would win until the results were announced. Ramaphosa beat Dlamini-Zuma by just more than 100 votes.
In KZN, the interim provincial task team, led by convenor Mike Mabuyakhulu with Zikalala as coordinator, was confident inclusive leadership would be elected at the conference.
Mabuyakhulu is a Ramaphosa ally while Zikalala campaigned for Dlamini-Zuma last year.
An attempt to hold the provincial conference last month failed after the group of dissatisfied members got an urgent high court interdict to halt the meeting. These members were from Moses Mabhida‚ Lower South Coast and Harry Gwala regions.
But this time, ANC headquarters and the task team were confident the conference would proceed smoothly because both sides had found each other.
NEC members and dispute resolution teams deployed to the province have been working behind the scenes to bring the two factions together.
According to Zikalala, the members in the other side met regularly with him and Mabuyakhulu and an out-of-court settlement had been found that guaranteed unity and the possible election of a united executive committee.
“We are very excited that ANC members have found common ground‚ hence the reconvening of the conference. The provincial task team is equally positive,” Zikalala told media this week.
Despite being part of the stronger faction, Zikalala was even more optimistic about achieving a breakthrough that would result in genuine unity in the province.
He vowed that the conference would deliberate frankly on the issues that divided them and find solutions so they would emerge stronger and more united from the gathering.
Political analysts said this week the divisions were deep and widespread in KwaZulu-Natal. They said trying to achieve unity without addressing what caused the divisions in the first place would be futile.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Ekurhuleni ANC members’ attempt to interdict this weekend’s Gauteng provincial conference failed. The High Court in Johannesburg dismissed their application, saying it was not urgent.
Ekurhuleni is expected to bring the biggest delegation to the conference, which starts today and runs until Sunday.
Members have demanded that Ekurhuleni should not be allowed to participate because of alleged irregularities at its recent regional conference.
They alleged that some branches not in good standing took part in the conference and that the procedures violated the ANC constitution.