ANC sidelines Jacob Zuma over Cyril Ramaphosa 'contest'
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has sidelined former president Jacob Zuma from its election campaign, apparently on the instruction of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The move follows what insiders say is Ramaphosa's discomfort with Zuma running a "parallel popularity" contest against the party's elected leadership, especially against Ramaphosa.
Zuma was last seen in party regalia actively campaigning for the ANC in January, ahead of the ANC's 107th birthday celebrations. He has not taken part in any organisational work in his home province since then.
"The president has communicated his unhappiness to the province over the use of Zuma in many campaign activities, saying in public it is projected as if it's a competition between the former and the current president," an insider told the Sunday Times.
Provincial chair Sihle Zikalala enjoys a cordial relationship with Zuma, but he has to appease Ramaphosa if he wants to ascend to the position of KwaZulu-Natal premier after the May 8 national elections. Zikalala has strong competition from local government MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube.
The Sunday Times understands that Zuma's presence at events before the January 8 birthday bash created tension in the party.
Ramaphosa's backers went as far as rejecting a request from Zuma's supporters for the two to enter the stadium at the same time at the event.
Zizi Kodwa, head of Ramaphosa's office at Luthuli House, denied the ANC president was behind a move to isolate Zuma.
"Former presidents of the ANC are a reservoir and repository of knowledge and wisdom given their varied experience and knowledge both as former heads of state and former presidents of the ANC," he said.
Several provincial executive committee (PEC) members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Sunday Times that although Zuma had been excluded from their election events, he was not banned.
The leadership wants to dispel the notion that Cyril cannot campaign in KZN, that it's only Zuma who can do it herePEC member
"The leadership wants to dispel the notion that Cyril cannot campaign in KZN, that it's only Zuma who can do it here. The PEC has to make it clear that Cyril is the president," a PEC member said.
Another PEC member said: "It's about giving leadership space and demonstrating that KZN is part of one ANC. We are not running a parallel structure here and we cannot have a president of the ANC who looks weak, like in some places he needs his predecessor to campaign for him. It is not a PEC decision or resolution but everyone knows that Ramaphosa should have space to campaign."
Another insider said: "There are people in the province who still act like Zuma is the president and they have used their proximity to him to undermine campaigns and unity in the province, hence the line must be clear."
Zuma's spokesperson Vukile Mathabela referred specific questions to ANC leaders.
"Former ANC president comrade Jacob Zuma, as a disciplined cadre of the movement, continues to campaign for the ANC," he said.
ANC national spokesperson Dakota Legoete said Luthuli House was not involved in muting Zuma.
"It's not like he is being removed from the campaign; he is part of the campaign as well as all other former presidents."
Legoete conceded Zuma was "strong on the ground", hence he was prominent in various institutions of higher learning "to help us in the SRC elections".
"Last month I was with him in the West Rand, we even attended a Methodist church service as part of our campaigning. We did door-to-door but the face of the elections campaign is Cyril Ramaphosa," he said.
ANC provincial spokesperson Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said Zuma, as an ex officio national executive member, did not need a specific invitation because he had a right and a responsibility to participate in electioneering. "He requested to be given time off last month. We are going to be campaigning with him in April, he is going to be visible."