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11/06/2018 15:46 SAST | Updated 11/06/2018 15:48 SAST

Factional Battles Must Worry ANC Ahead Of 2019 Election – Analyst

'You are either breaking down your party through a factional battle, or you campaigning for 2019 elections; you cannot do both at the same time.'

Hannah Mckay/ Reuters

This is a transcribed interview with political analyst Ralph Mathekga

How worried should President Cyril Ramaphosa be right now regarding the boiling pot that is KZN?

Ramaphosa should be very worried — what is happening in KZN is one of the biggest risks that he is faced with. The main reason for this is that it frustrates his attempts to move the ANC toward a different type of politics, to get the ANC to transform itself into a modern political party. He wants the ANC to be a party that is not trapped by ideology and is instead able to adapt to what is demanded by the society that it leads.

Those who want to resist Ramaphosa are now able to rally together behind Jacob Zuma. On the surface, they are helping him through his corruption trial but in reality, they are just trying to evade their own responsibility. This is the main risk, it is an open challenge to the moral position associated with Ramaphosa's leadership.

We've seen that there's been a break-away within the governing party, owing to the factionalism which is playing itself out right now. Could one say that the ANC is responsible for sowing this seed? This is particularly evident in KZN, but could it have a trickle-down effect on the other provinces as well?

There are people within the ANC who want to go do their own thing for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the reason why we are seeing people stay, and engage in factionalism, isn't because people are loyalists committed to the ANC, but rather because it is still easier to access power through the ANC than leaving, forming a new political party and staying in the opposition for a long time before being able to access resources again.

The ANC still remains a very viable channel through which to access resources for some within the party, and that is why they are still going to battle within instead of leaving.

They have seen that the political parties who have left the ANC don't win government; they remain opposition parties such as EFF, and some end up self-destructing like COPE. People are not naive; they have learnt from history — it is unlikely we will see the formation of a new political party. I believe that instead, people will remain patient within the structures. It will take time for the ANC to get to the point where you can see they have agreed to align in a particular direction.

I think the moral leadership of the ANC is still up for grabs. Ramaphosa is trying to contest it by putting in his idea of what constitutes ethical leadership. Meanwhile, there are those who are challenging him, by putting forward their ideas as to what constitutes good leadership, during what they consider the revolution that is underway.

There are different versions, and this is part of the struggle — unfortunately, there are implications for the elections. If the party still has these problems, it simply means that there'll be no devotion coming back at the polls.

Are we perhaps overanalysing the situation that is currently unfolding in the ANC, or can one emphatically say that Zuma has a clear hand in the current state of the party?

Zuma undoubtedly has a hand in this, but having a hand in something, adding fuel to the fire, does not necessarily mean you are the one who set the fire. Everybody knows Zuma wants to survive the criminal trial, therefore it is politically expedient for him to try to rally support for himself. He wants to use that political support to push against the criminal trial.

Some people will be on Zuma's side just because they want someone who can be seen to be standing against Ramaphosa. Those who might not see their future in Ramaphosa's leadership.

For some people, it isn't about saying that the president is from the ANC, but rather about how close one is to the president of the ANC, and therefore how much access to resources one might be able to get due to proximity to the president. It is not about bad people versus good people or evil versus good; it is also about political survival and access to resources.

Some experts have been saying that Zuma is taking the ANC down. Looking at this from a numbers perspective: the early signs of Zuma's grip on the voting public were seen when the ANC fared badly in the 2016 local government elections. Then Ramaphosa came in, and with him the renewal of hope in the liberation party. Suddenly they have a better outlook on the 2019 elections. Can you paint a picture of what current events foretell ahead of next year?

Saying Zuma is taking the ANC down is a simple observation that anyone can make, because it is all playing itself out for everyone to see. I do however think that inasmuch as we can blame him, Zuma is not forcing anyone to come to court or to challenge the current leadership of the ANC.

Members of the ANC who are involved are complicit in all that is happening in the destabilisation of the party. Zuma is doing what matters to him, and people are following him. They are also hoping to extract what they want to get out of it, so it would be unfair to simply say Zuma is to blame.

I think members of the ANC should know — even those in KZN — that what is currently happening in KZN will not help them in 2019. Maybe they don't care about the leadership of the ANC, or winning at a national level, but certainly, it is also not helping them on the provincial level either.

Going into 2019, this is just a waste of time — people should be stabilising their party. There is a saying that goes: you can't be at the disco and be at the church at the same time — you are either in church or you are at the disco. So you are either breaking down your party through a factional battle, or you campaigning for 2019 elections — you cannot do both at the same time.