With the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal's highly-contested provincial conference expected later this month, the battle for leadership of the party's largest membership via its provincial executive committee [PEC] is at boiling point.
Warring factions aligned to former president Jacob Zuma and his successor Cyril Ramaphosa have been at odds since last year, with national political interests playing out through them.
Sources close to each faction have reiterated their claims to the throne, and depending on whom you speak to, they will tell you why they are more legitimate for leadership than the other.
The feud will see staunch Zuma backer Sihle Zikalala, who chaired the ANC in the province until his executive was disbanded, pitted against former Durban mayor and political heavyweight James Nxumalo. Nxumalo is believed to be the preferred candidate from the pro-Ramaphosa bench.
#ANCKZN Aggrieved ANC members from four regions (Lower South Coast, Harry Gwala, Moses Mabhida & Abaqulusi) say the Provincial Task Team has failed to address challenges facing the organisation. They say 42 branches are excluded from regional & provincial conferences. #eNCA pic.twitter.com/MzBBjoMr7s— Siphamandla Goge (@SiphamandlaGoge) May 10, 2018
A source close to Zikalala said they are ready for the conference.
"We were always ready for this conference. Others tried to delay this conference until after the national elections, because they are afraid. They say it is for unity, but they are afraid because they have no support here. Zikalala and the PEC [were] disbanded for political reasons, to help Ramaphosa win in December. But our people know this, and they will support us," the source said.
Last year, the High Court nullified the 2015 provincial conference in which Zikalala and his PEC were elected. In January, with Ramaphosa now at the helm of the ANC, the party's national executive committee moved to suspend the KZN executive and have it replaced with an interim task team.
Both factions are represented in the team, and at its helm are Zikalala and Mike Mabuyakhulu, a Ramaphosa man.
#ANCKZN Delegates at the KwaDukuza regional conference sing pro former President Jacob Zuma song, "wenzen' uZuma?" They also ask what has Supra Mahumapelo, North West ANC chair & Premier done? The 7th KwaDukuza regional conference is underway.@eNCA pic.twitter.com/i7nwzoQcwY— Siphamandla Goge (@SiphamandlaGoge) May 5, 2018
A source in the Ramaphosa faction said the "entire process is illegitimate".
"You must remember, this process is headed by [ANC secretary-general] Ace Magashule, who is a Zuma man. He chose the national working committee members who came to intervene in the province. We also said our focus should be on national elections, but obviously Magashule wants to expedite the process because Zikalala wants to expedite the process," he said.
"The NWC [national working committee] focuses on one group over the other. There is complete bias in the process, and these fights will continue if another biased election takes place. The only way to resolve it is to work together. Resolve issues first, and then come to vote united on who should lead."
The Greater KwaDukuza region was the first to hold its elective conference. This will be followed by four more regions at the weekend. There are 11 regions in the province which must conclude their conferences before the provincial conference is held.
Attempts to contact Mabuyakhulu and Zikalala were unsuccessful.