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Meet the ANC KZN faction that calls itself the Taliban

Factions adopt peculiar names as fight for soul of the ANC intensifies

If she’s in a kufiya, she must be a Taliban – a delegate to the ANC KwaZulu-Natal elective conference makes her loyalties clear.

The Taliban were hunting down Ankole cattle in Durban this weekend.

“Taliban” is what a faction aligned to MPL Siboniso Duma dubbed itself as it campaigned across the province — while Sihle Zikalala’s group was nicknamed the Ankole in reference to its support for President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It was easy to tell a Taliban from an Ankole at the ANC provincial conference as the former came to the Olive Convention Centre on Durban’s north beach draped in Arab kufiya scarves just to finish the look.

Duma was this group’s candidate for chair, and former Harry Gwala municipality mayor Bheki Mtolo challenged for the provincial secretary job. Mtolo was the only common name that the anti-Zikalala Taliban faction agreed on from the onset.

Then there was the game-changer, finance MEC Nomusa Dube, who tried to position  herself as a “third way” contender. And businessman Sandile Zungu  ran a campaign dubbed the “fresh way”, which struggled to gain traction.

Cosatu provincial chair Phumlani Duma chastised delegates on Friday for formalising the factions.

“It’s not correct comrades, let’s make sure that we speak of one organisation, which is the ANC. If we talk about RET [radical economic transformation], let’s talk about it as a policy of the ANC, not as an organisation within the ANC.

“Let’s not talk about things we don’t know about such as ‘Friends Like These’, ‘Taliban’ and ‘Ankole’.”

The ANC has over the years condemned the formalisation of factions as it causes divisions in the party, but the practice is not going away.

For delegates supporting Zikalala, Ankole is much more than the name of a cattle breed from East Africa that Ramaphosa breeds.  It stands for keeping the status quo intact. 

However, the Taliban faction said it was  inspired by the “commitment, resilience and firmness” of the Afghan Islamic fundamentalist movement.

It all started in Mpumalanga where the Focus faction, led by provincial chair Mandla Ndlovu, defeated a group aligned to Deputy President David Mabuza’s faction, known as Ngci.

And the VBS faction in Limpopo came into power when premier Stan Mathabatha was elected chair. This group earned the nickname because its leaders are accused of participating in the looting of the VBS Mutual Bank.

In Gauteng, a faction known as the Adiwele — led by human settlements MEC Legogang Maile — locked horns with the Sigrand faction of education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Lesufi won the contest for party chair, but the provincial executive committee is dominated by Maile’s allies. The Adiwele faction — named for the title of an amapiano song — is advocating for younger leaders to take up positions in the ANC.

Let’s just take a step back, who calls themselves Talibans in a democracy if they are sober in their minds?

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the ANC leadership had not done enough to discourage the culture of factionalism.

“Factionalism has been allowed to be the determining factor of leadership … since Polokwane because that’s when [it] became the gospel of the ANC, that this one belongs to this faction and this one to the other faction.

“It has a lot to do with the state of the party. It has a lot to do with the party’s inability to rethink … [it has] accepted that there is nothing [it] can do about it,” Mathekga said.

He said some of the new factions were born out of frustration from groupings that felt sidelined by the old guard.

“Let’s just take a step back, who calls themselves Talibans in a democracy if they are sober in their minds? These factions are young people who are finding it difficult to engage with the elder generation in the party because the system of consultation and the system through which they are engaged is not working well.

“This thing of democratic centralism and ‘we’re going to discuss policy’ is just a façade, because in essence it’s just a few people who decide what is the policy of the ANC and others just have a referendum on it, that’s it,” Mathekga said.

“So all these things you’re seeing, Adiwele, all these kinds of formations that have got a sense of identifying with a kind of trendy way of wanting to be heard within the ANC, it is an expression of a frustration.” 

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