WATCH: ANC provincial secretary backtracks on 'unelected leadership' comment, says it was not aimed at Mike Mabuyakhulu

Bheki Mtolo, right, says he was not referring to Mike Mabuyakhulu. Picture: ANC KZN

Bheki Mtolo, right, says he was not referring to Mike Mabuyakhulu. Picture: ANC KZN

Published Aug 22, 2023

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After enduring heavy criticism for days over his comments about "briefcase leadership" and "unelected leadership", the provincial secretary of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, Bheki Mtolo, has backtracked.

Mtolo told the media on Tuesday in Durban that the comment was not aimed at seasoned leaders like Mike Mabuyakhulu.

Mtolo’s unguarded comment that set the cat among the pigeons was made on Saturday in Ladysmith, where he was addressing the Josiah Gumede regional general council.

During the address, Bheki Mtolo said the time for unelected leadership was over, and branches must now stand up and ask these leaders who they had been elected by, before letting them speak.

Within the ANC, the comment was seen by others as an indirect opposition to the recent announcement by the ANC’s secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula, that Mabuyakhulu would be roped in to lead the election campaigns of the party in the province.

Mbalula said that after Mabuyakhulu was acquitted in his corruption trial, he was brought back into the fold.

The ANC constitution makes it very clear that Mtolo is the head of the elections in the province, and his comment seems to imply that he felt that his space was being encroached upon.

"Briefcase leadership is not respected by anyone; comrades, people do not respect someone who was not elected.

"People don’t respect someone who is woken up from his sleep and told that here is a position, Mbalula has appointed you to lead KZN," Mtolo told the gathering.

Mtolo was quizzed by the media regarding this comment on Tuesday when he addressed a post-provincial executive committee meeting.

He said his comment was meant to highlight the challenge of having task teams lead the structures of the ANC.

He said that creates a challenge for the party.

"I say what we have learnt from the task teams is that unelected people who are given elected leadership responsibilities don’t get respected because they are just given that responsibility. Because, it’s true, if you are not elected, what are you? You are a briefcase leader," Mtolo said about the comment.

Regarding the role of Mabuyakhulu, Mtolo said he has been assigned to work with traditional leadership in regions in the north of the province.

Ironically, these are the regions where the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the ANC’s nemesis in the province, is strong.

He said Mabuyakhulu notched the deployment on the basis that he is free as he is not in government and not employed.

"We have designed an area where they will focus because the area where we think they must play the biggest role is the area of traditional leadership and the religious sector.

"That’s where they will be; we have demarcated regions that Mike will focus on: Musa Dladla which is King Cetshwayo; Nokuhamba Nyawo, which is Umkhanyakude; Zululand, which is Mzala Nxumalo; and Inkosi Bhambatha, which is Umzinyathi.

"That will be his area of focus, but also coming into the space of the province, we demarcated all of them in various districts, in various regions of our province," Mtolo said.

During the press conference, Mtolo revealed that the newly elected leadership of the ANC Women’s League in the province, which is chaired by Nonhlanhla Khoza, has appealed the decision to nullify its election.

The decision to nullify its election was communicated by the national leadership of the league on Friday.

Since the matter is being challenged, Mtolo said they allowed the league to sit in on their PEC meeting.

On behalf of the ANC Women’s League, the PEC welcomed to the meeting the newly elected provincial chair and provincial secretary, respectively.

"In addition, the PEC received a report on the ANCWL Provincial Conference and congratulated the newly elected leadership. In relation to the dissolution of the KZN ANCWL by the National ANC Women’s League, the PEC noted the subsequent decision to appeal the dissolution," Mtolo said.

He added that until the appeal has been heard, they will continue to accept the leadership of the league in the province.

"This effectively means that the elected leadership remains in office.

"Flowing from the above, the ANC in the province will continue to work with the current leadership until this matter of dissolution and appeal is managed to its logical conclusion," Mtolo said.

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