By Eric Naki

Sources tell of secret meetings, recruitment and planned social media propaganda campaigns, while a name has already been put forward.

The move to establish a breakaway party from the ruling African Nation Congress (ANC) is gaining momentum in KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Free State – and it’s worrying some in the party leadership who believe former president Jacob Zuma, despite his protestations to the contrary, is “highly involved”.

A reliable ANC source said the plan to set up the new party was hatched in KwaZulu-Natal and consultations initiated with North West and Free State ANC structures, while certain Zuma supporters had been identified in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng to push the project.

The members from the three provinces had been holding secret meetings in KZN, aimed to culminate in the election of an interim leadership structure that would organise a launching congress later this year.

Former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo and his loyalists had reportedly been to KZN three times already about the new party.

The name African Transformation Congress (ATC) was already being touted. The party would be established along the lines of the Congress of the People, which announced a divorce from the ANC in 2008.

In fact, the group might approach Cope to either merge or align with the new party, since President Cyril Ramaphosa gave Cope a cold shoulder in his ANC unity and renewal project.

“The intention is to form the party structures countrywide,” a source in North West said. “They want to launch it formally. Although Zuma claims to know nothing about the plan to establish this party, he is highly involved.”

The source said it was a matter of time before Mahumapelo, former Free State premier Ace Magashule (who is now the party’s secretary-general) and some of the KZN leaders associated with Zuma came out to announce the breakaway party.

The majority of the North West ANC provincial executive committee members were part of the plan. But the PEC was treading carefully because it feared detection by colleagues who supported Ramaphosa.

The PEC made sure that they isolated anti-Mahumapelo comrades from the party processes and election structures. Those identified problematic and Mahumapelo “enemies” included ANC deputy chairperson Sello Lehari, Ketleng municipality mayor Kim Medupi, and PEC members such as Mmoloki Cwaile, Saliva Molapitsi and Priscilla Kwenaite.

According to sources close to the provincial ANC and North West government, Mahumapelo wanted his loyalists to dominate all party election structures in the run-up to the 2019 national polls.

The recent removal of North West provincial elections coordinator Nikiwe Num was linked to manoeuvres by the North West ATC advocates intent on getting rid of potential threats to their plan. Another to fall prey in the process is head of communications Oupa Matla, who fell out of favour with his long-time ally Mahumapelo.

“Nikiwe has been taken away from the crucial ANC position because she is a principled person,” said a top provincial ANC source.

“They don’t trust her to commit to pursue their anti-ANC agenda. The removal of Nikiwe means nothing else but a plan to destabilise the ANC election programme by the ATC operatives.”

Campaigns are under way in the three provinces to recruit members from the ANC, who will form the core of the new party. It would be accompanied by a concerted propaganda campaign aimed to discredit particular ANC leaders – especially Ramaphosa.

This would be intensified in the coming months, including the posting of social media messages despising Ramaphosa and interviews of individuals who would bash the leadership elected at Nasrec last December.

Certain political analysts and organisations such as Black First Land First would be given platforms by the group to propagate its “white monopoly capital” messages and to promote Zuma in the media as a champion of radical economic transformation and free education.

The source said insults on social media directed at Ramaphosa emanating from the Free State and Gauteng were part of the campaign.

This week, the ANC condemned those responsible for the messages and vowed to take action against the culprits.

Luthuli House this week asked the Gauteng and Free State PECs to institute disciplinary processes against instigators of disunity within the organisation.

“The use of social media platforms should at all times be in line with the ANC constitution and code of conduct, and seek to advance debates and discussions in a rational and responsible manner,” the source said.

Meanwhile, Mahumapelo is said to have hired buses and minibus taxis to ferry supporters to attend the Zuma trial on Friday.

Mahumapelo recently publicly opposed an instruction by Luthuli House that ANC members should not to wear party regalia at the trial.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe’s cellphone was switched off and he was not available to comment yesterday.