The KwaZulu-Natal African National Congress’s (ANC's) chairperson has rejected claims that South Coast branch leaders were stripped of their powers for backing Cyril Ramaphosa to become ANC president.
Sihle Zikalala said on Monday that the move had nothing to do with ANC’s elective conference in December.
"I think people are peddling their own propaganda for their own cause and to justify whatever interests."
He said the provincial executive committee (PEC) took over certain regions in order to allow the organisation to function smoothly.
Zikalala was speaking to journalists in Boksburg, a day after he and other provincial leaders told South Coast branch leaders they were being stripped of their powers.
"We knew that they wanted to unseat the leadership in the region," one party member, who did not want to be identified, told News24.
"They know that this region is supporting Cyril Ramaphosa. The forces of change are losing their power here and they want our voices silenced," another member said.
The "forces of change" are President Jacob Zuma and, by extension, his ex-wife and ANC presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. This group appears to be losing power in the region, while support for Ramaphosa, who is Zuma’s deputy, seems to be growing.
Zikalala questioned why he was only being asked about the ANC’s intervention in the Lower South Coast. He said the PEC, which had the ability to take back its powers, did the same in the Harry Gwala region, Dlamini-Zuma’s home.
Three sources at Sunday’s meeting said Zikalala, who was accompanied by Harry Gwala district municipality mayor Mluleki Ndobe, called five leaders from each Lower South Coast branch to a venue in Uvongo.
"Zikalala told us repeatedly that he did not want to disband the region. He knew that this action would fuel the fire," a source said.
One branch leader said several of branch members were denied entry to Sunday’s meeting.
"They were told that it was closed meeting. Many of our members waited outside to hear what Zikalala had come to say. We had already heard that he had come to disband the region and we were ready for anything."
Another source said a Whatsapp message circulated during the weekend informed ANC members that provincial leaders were on their way to dissolve structures.
When pushed during Sunday’s meeting to explain the move, Zikalala apparently said that he and his team were there to report back on concerns the region had raised during the 2016 municipal elections.
Lower South Coast regional secretary Mzwandile Mkhwanazi is punted to be the next regional chair. He is apparently part of the so-called progressive faction which supports Ramaphosa. His rival, Mondli Chiliza, is a Zuma supporter.
Zikalala said that at the end of the process a report would be released to show why the PEC decided to take over the responsibilities of some regions.