Emerging KZN ‘Taliban’ group must be monitored, says security expert

Delegates at the ANC KwaZulu-Natal conference were seen wearing Arab scarves to link them to the so-called “Taliban” group. File

Delegates at the ANC KwaZulu-Natal conference were seen wearing Arab scarves to link them to the so-called “Taliban” group. File

Published Aug 7, 2022


While friction between the so-called Ankole and Taliban factions in the ANC was expected to have fizzled out after the party’s KwaZulu-Natal conference, some members continue to don an Arab scarf to identify themselves as "the Talibans".

Experts have warned that using the name could anger the real Muslim Taliban extremist group "and who knows what they would do".

Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist terror organisation who took control over Afghanistan after waging war in the country in the form of an insurgency.

ANC members in KZN said that while the Taliban was notorious for terrorism and violence they did however subscribe to the group's "fight to the end" spirit.

The Ankole faction has been linked to those supporting President Cyril Ramphosa whose Phala Phala farm auctioned Ankole cattle.

A senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Martin Ewi said this week the group must be monitored closely.

The warnings come a week since the ANC's 6th policy conference where some ANC members wore the keffiyeh over their ANC regalia.

The latest branding and naming of the ANC factions gained momentum at the hotly contested KZN conference where former chair Sihle Zikalala was unseated after losing to Siboniso Duma and the entire "Taliban" slate.

Zikalala resigned as KZN premier this week, citing reasons linked to a "narrative being peddled about him".

Prior to that, other naming and branding collateral were seen in the Eastern Cape when members identified themselves to either be linked to the "Buya" faction in support of Oscar Mabuyane or "Maliya" grouping which supported his opponent Babalo Madikizela. The Gauteng conference also saw the emergence of the "Panya-Panya" lobby group for newly-elected leader Panyaza Lesufi or the "Adiwele" slate that was in favour of Lebogang Maile.

ANC Harry Gwala district spokesperson Qiniso Mnguni said the group was inspired by New Castle's Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba who referred to himself as "Taliban". The former New Castle mayor emerged victorious at the KZN conference when he was elected treasurer.

Mahlaba is no stranger to controversy after he was convicted after being charged with theft, assault and malicious damage to property following the assault of an employee of a fibre cable contractor in Newcastle.

The magistrate however found that Mahlaba incited others to commit the crimes.

In 2019 he was arrested for the 2016 murder of ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leader, Wandile Ngubeni. The charges were however withdrawn following the death of a key witness.

Mnguni said the group hoped to challenge the status quo in KZN.

“When this grouping started it reached out to many regions and lobbied them.

“We told them we need to fight for change in the best interest of the people of KZN,“ Mnguni said.

Ewi cautioned that the group should be monitored.

"We could have people who may have heard of the Taliban, especially with the Taliban taking over Afghanistan and the recent win over America which has made them popular as a revolutionary group," Ewi said.

"We could also have individuals who want to link themselves to that experience to say they are leading a revolution. The Taliban for them is a symbol of substance, a revolution that will succeed but again for some people the Taliban means violence and extremism.

"The group (in the ANC) is focused on dynamics within the ANC. Right now they speaking from a vantage position, having won elections in Durban. I noticed that they're wearing the Taliban scarf. Their link to the Taliban is political and not religious or ideological," Ewi said.

Political analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu said there was reason to be concerned.

"We have all the reasons to be concerned. Looking at it in context, you might say there is nothing to worry about what name they identify themselves with but given the history and the current activities of the Taliban one has every reason to be worried," Mngomezulu said.

He said the ANC must address the naming and branding in the party in its closed meetings.

"It is not easy for the ANC to act on this conclusively because at the moment there is no structure which formerly calls itself the Taliban.

"These are the groupings that are known for wrongdoing. If a faction of the ANC identifies itself by using that name then of course we have every reason to be concerned, rightly or wrongly because we may find that the real Taliban might be offended and then we don't know what could happen then?" Mngomezulu asked.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe denied that there had been groupings at the policy conference last week who labelled themselves the Taliban.

"It's not true that people wear scarves linked to the Taliban, we have always worn the scarves because we have an alliance with the Palestinians.

"We should not come in and want to locate the Palestinian scarves to say they represent a factional mantra in the ANC," Mabe said.