President Jacob Zuma loyalists in the Battle of Mangaung argue that the organisation’s membership rise is evidence of Zuma’s exemplary leadership. The feat of 1.2 million members simultaneously exposes three Achilles’ heels. These are KwaZulu-Natal’s (KZN) trouncing of other provinces’ membership totals and Mangaung delegate tallies, and hence probable dominance at the national elective conference; the fact that Imvuselelo’s mass membership came at a time of renewed bewailing in the ANC of the mixed quality of cadreship; and the impression that main contender and president, Zuma, delivered meagerly on national leadership yet spectacularly on strategy for re-election come Mangaung.
This analysis deals with mainly the first of the weaknesses, in relation to the Mangaung contest. It shows that the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has been steadily on the rise since 2005, and spectacularly so since 2007. It pinpoints the strategic advantage that the KZN ANC’s membership rise in the last six months handed to this largely pro-Zuma province in the battle of ‘Change’ (Kgalema Motlanthe’s corner) versus ‘Continuity’ (Zuma’s corner). It explores ramifications of apparent ‘Zulufication’ of the ANC.
The other provinces should have seen KZN dominance coming. The ANC KZN’s relentless membership surge has been evident for about a decade. Yet, it was the province’s sustained rise in the dying hours of the Imvuselelo campaign (delivering roughly 70,000 additional members when other provinces’ drives had slowed down) that confirmed KZN’s numerical dominance and tactical outmanoeuvring of other provinces – and the associated Zulufication of the ANC. Pre-1997 ANC membership details are sparse. The organisation was still transforming itself from banned liberation movement into political party-movement. At the time of the 1997 Mafikeng national elective conference, the organisational report shows 64,998 members from KwaZulu-Natal (16 % of the ANC’s total national membership). By the time of the 2002 Stellenbosch conference, the KwaZulu-Natal ANC membership had dropped to 53,531 (13 % of total membership). The Eastern Cape at the time had 21 percent of ANC members. It was the time of the ‘Xhosa-nostra’.
In the report periods from 2002 to the present, ANC KZN membership went up and up and up – 75,035 in 2005; 102,754 in 2007; leaping to 192,168 in 2010; 244,900 in January 2012 (Eastern Cape as the second biggest province for ANC membership still in close pursuit of KZN on 225,297); 252,637 in May 2012; and 331,820 in October 2012, equating with 27 percent of total ANC membership. The total October 2012 total ANC membership was 1,220,057. The Eastern Cape was now on 187,585, which was 15 percent of total ANC membership – down from the 21 % ten years earlier. Despite this marginal setback, the Zulufication of the ANC had become a reality.

Despite this marginal setback, the Zulufication of the ANC had become a reality.

The KZN ANC’s rise from 2007 to 2012 was broadly proportionate to the ANC’s emerging electoral dominance in the province. In the 2009 election, the ANC’s growth in KZN helped veil slippages in the other provinces. The ANC in KZN was confirmed of the predominant king-maker.
By 2012 the KZN ANC members thus constituted just more than one-quarter of ANC national membership. It was spread out across 824 KZN branches in 11 ANC regions. The KZN ANC won itself 974 branch voting delegates for Mangaung. This was out of the branch delegate total of 3,925 (and 4,322 with the inclusion of the Leagues, the ANC provincial delegates, and NEC delegates). In terms of branch delegates the KZN holds a total of 25 percent, slightly less than the 27% of membership.
As part of the broader context, and for comparable years from 2001 to 2012, the size of the KZN general population in relation to the national totals remained stable. In the 2001 census the KwaZulu-Natal population came to 9,584,129 (or 21 % of the SA total of 44,819,705), compared with the 2012 census’ 10,267,300 (or 20 % of the SA total of 51,770,560). The provincial ANC fielded multiple questions about the validity of its membership figures. Many asked: ‘Gerrymandering?’ The official ANC referred, for example, to special campaigns to ensure the renewal of existing memberships. Some suspicion centred on the improbably high proportions of ANC members in specific areas. Suspicions also arose in the context of the KZN ANC attempting to get additional Mangaung delegates in recognition of the mass-branches. These branches boasted memberships of thousands. Such allocations would have affected the formula of the ANC’s constitutionally guaranteed minimum of ‘one voting delegate per branch’, even if the branch membership just hovered above the minimum membership base of 100.
Just the membership growth that the KZN ANC registered in the space of six months in 2012 equalled total ANC total membership in some other provinces.
The KZN ANC’s remarkable growth was likely to have knock-on effects further down the line. First, mass branch memberships came when laments about the quality of cadreship, and often suspect motivations for joining the ANC, were featuring prominently on many ANC meeting agendas. This process unfolded as the ANC was still trying to phase in better controls upon both entry and assumption of leadership positions in the ANC. In the preceding period controls had declined. This was at a time that the ANC needed more of it. Factions and fractions were embroiled in contests, even murderous ones. Mangaung was set to confirm new criteria. Thereafter implementation may follow.
It also came at a time when KZN loyalty to Zuma had been dented as it emerged that Zuma was not always playing by the rule of loyalty (even over records of wrong-doing) to provincial king-makers. Reports from most of the regions also highlighted details of ruthless bargaining for retention of and access to new positions of deployment. Political killings in KZN were often linked to political feuds concerning who gets what.
As opinion polls tell us, the ANC is suffering dents in its credibility in government. A multitude of questions surfaces about public ethics and clean government. KZN’s mega-ascendance had arisen once (from 2005 to 2007) there were guarantees of a provincial hold on tender and deployment opportunities. The KZN ANC was certainly playing catch-up with the rest of the provinces. But it also went beyond – in the time of the scramble for the ‘trough’ (the ANC members’ term for turnover of deployees and tenderpreneurs).
These facts and arguments illustrate how the KZN ANC’s rule over the organisation and succession politics could live to bring organisational and governmental destabilisation. It was the time of Zulufication. Time only will tell whether the politics of this time will in due course trigger mobilisation against Zulufication.
Susan Booysen is a political analyst, Professor at Wits University and author of The ANC and the Regeneration of Political Power.

– By ANALYSIS: Susan Booysen, Wits