AS the KwaZulu-Natal ANC executive openly denounced secretary-general Ace Magashule for defying his suspension, former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and other leaders affected by the step-aside resolution are also expected to dig in their heels.
All eyes will be on this weekend’s ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting as it is expected to take a final decision on whether to recommend the dismissal of leaders who have failed to step aside in the face of criminal charges against them.
Nhlakanipho Ntombela, the party’s provincial executive committee (PEC) was of the position that the rebellious comrades should be summarily dismissed.
Gumede and a host of other eThekwini councillors, who are facing fraud and corruption charges, are said to have taken a decision to not heed the step-aside call.
Ntando Khuzwayo, the spokesperson for the ANC faction behind Gumede’s political comeback campaign in the eThekwini region, said the former mayor had not been served with a notice to step-aside.
A reliable source, who is close to Gumede and also to the ANC, told The Mercury that other than media reports, she had not been served with any form of notification from the PEC for her to step down.
Recall that late last year, Gumede and city councillors Zoe Shabalala and Thembelihle De Lange were cleared by the party’s provincial integrity committee and their suspensions were revoked, which saw them resume their duties.
The source said Unless Gumede and the rest of the councillors facing charges were told by the PEC that they were expected to step aside, there was nothing compelling them to do so.
He said “Yes the national working committee has recently resolved that all leaders who have been charged must step aside, but the PEC, as the structure the provincial cadres report to, should have written to them to say you should step aside. That has not happened”.
In an open attack on Magashule and others who would resist the step aside rule, Ntombela said “we would rather be few”.
He said “This has always been the position of the province. (Magashule) is clearly undermining the organisation”.
The actions of the NEC were proof that the party was beginning to send a strong message that there would be zero tolerance to crime and corruption or any act of a criminal nature.
Faced with charges of corruption, deputy provincial chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu became the first senior ANC leader in KZN to publicly announce that he was stepping aside.
Ntombela further said the position of the PEC was that the step aside rule was a resolution of the national conference and, as the second decision making structure in between national conferences, the NEC had resolved on how it would be implemented.
He said this resolution could not be overturned, not even by a disciplinary appeals committee – a comrade should simply step aside or be summarily dismissed.
Professor Sipho Seepe, a senior lecturer at the University of Zululand, said that while the strong stance adopted by the KZN ANC would certainly weaken the party’s footprint during the forthcoming elections, the party would continue to lead.
Seepe described the attitude adopted by KZN region as triumphalist rather than trying to resolve organisational differences.
In addition, argued Seepe, the resolution on the step aside was being read with factional eyes.
He further said “The last provision on the resolution argues that steps taken by the organisation must comply with the county’s Constitution. The country’s Constitution is crystal that all persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Being charged by a partisan ’National Prosecuting Authority’ is no proof of one’s guilt”.
He said those that would be summarily dismissed without due processes were within their rights to approach the courts.
“We might be seeing the beginning of the blood-letting era within the ANC. Those that had wanted to destroy the ANC have been given a gift of a lifetime. The ANC is doing a good job for them.”
In addition, he criticised the ANC for misinterpreting the conference resolution to mean that those told to step aside had no option of lodging an appeal.
“Resolutions of the conference and the decisions of the NEC are not above its Constitution. The ANC constitution envisages a just and fair disciplinary procedure in dealing with its cadre. Failure to adhere to the party’s constitutional provisions opens an avenue for appeals.
“The ANC was able to sit (during the negotiations for a democratic SA) with perpetrators of an evil system of apartheid, but today some may have become so drunk with power that they are willing to destroy their own comrades.”