South Africa

Battleground Limpopo: Tooth and nail brawl for Mangaung frontline

By Ranjeni Munusamy 6 December 2012

Limpopo was fought to the hilt this time round, but after Mangaung the province can expect a battle supreme to commence. Zuma’s forces may have lost last night, but intervention to topple the province’s leadership will be at the top of the president’s in-tray in 2013. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

After marathon all-night battles, the ANC in Limpopo and the Western Cape launched ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe back into contention to take on President Jacob Zuma for the ANC leadership in Mangaung. But the votes from the two provinces are hardly enough to catch up on the running lead that Zuma has. Still, Limpopo remains the last fortress against President Jacob Zuma’s second term. In a conference night of high drama and outbreaks of violence, Zuma supporters finally decided that the only way to defy the inevitable backing for Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was to stage a walk out and not vote at all. As a result, Zuma received just seven votes while Motlanthe is now the province’s official nominee for president with 268 votes.

Motlanthe now has the support of three provinces and the ANC Youth League, while Zuma is backed by six provinces and the women’s and veterans’ leagues.

The ANC in Limpopo and the Western Cape had second takes on their nominations conferences on Wednesday after bitter political fights stalled their conferences last Friday. Both conferences spluttered through Wednesday night into Thursday morning due to disputes over delegate credentials and allegations of fraud. Even with intervention teams made up of ANC national executive committee (NEC) members, factions loyal to Zuma and Motlanthe faced off, unwilling to surrender ground in the two remaining provinces with outstanding nominations for the ANC Top Six and NEC.

In Polokwane, two people were arrested as pro-Zuma supporters attacked police with stones and bottles, and tried to force their way into the conference hall. Police used water cannons to disperse the angry mob. There were originally 92 disputes over delegate credentials; 15 were resolved overnight leaving 77 pending. Among those not allowed in to the conference as a voting delegate was Young Communist League National Secretary Buti Manamela, whose branch in Modimolle was instead represented by a pro-Motlanthe supporter. (Manamela is one of the lead lobbyists for Zuma’s second term.)

The NEC team, which included police minister Nathi Mthethwa, ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga and former intelligence director-general Billy Masetlha, allowed Zuma supporters to register late on Wednesday night, even after the required quorum was reached. Voting was delayed further in the early hours of the morning after a youth league leader grabbed the attendance register from an electoral commission official. Even though the list was returned, the electoral commission decided to re-register all the delegates. The youth leader is to face disciplinary action over the incident.

Zuma supporters were still disgruntled that the outstanding disputes were not resolved and that their delegates, mostly from the Waterberg region, were not allowed to vote. They claim they were replaced by bogus delegates and were frustrated that the pro-Zuma NEC team would not act in their favour. As a result, the Zuma supporters staged a walkout of the conference, leaving delegates aligned to the “Forces of Change” to continue with voting unimpeded.

The voting results therefore were skewed towards those advocating for leadership change in Mangaung. While Motlanthe beat Zuma by 261 votes, Fikile Mbalula (who was also present at the conference) received 262 votes for the position of secretary general compared to 10 for Gwede Mantashe. Mathews Phosa is Limpopo’s nominee for deputy president, receiving 254 votes, while Tokyo Sexwale received 10 and Cyril Ramaphosa, the front runner for the position, got six votes. Sexwale, however, received the province’s backing for the national treasurer post with 254 votes.

Thenjiwe Mtintso received 237 votes for the position of deputy secretary general while the Zuma candidate, Jessie Duarte, received six. Thandi Modise was nominated for national chairperson with 230 votes. She was up against Mtintso who received 21 votes.

In the Western Cape, delegates eventually voted in the early hours of the morning after disputes raged from Wednesday afternoon over delegate credentials. By narrow margins, Motlanthe emerged as the province’s nominee for president (99 votes compared to 90 for Zuma), and Mbalula received 96 votes for the secretary general position, while Mantashe had 85. 

While Zuma and Mantashe are still way ahead of the game and are likely to retain their positions in Mangaung, the support of Limpopo and the Western Cape means that Motlanthe and Mbalula have enough backing to be on the ballot papers if they accept nomination to contest the posts.

The nominations process in Limpopo went down to the wire not just due to the Mangaung leadership contest. The provincial government and the ANC leadership in Limpopo have been at the forefront of the campaign to remove Zuma and have Motlanthe elected in his place. Tensions and hostility towards Zuma has escalated further in the past year after the president ordered a constitutional intervention for national government to take over five departments in the province.

There has been mounting pressure from Zuma’s backers to dislodge the forces of change by ousting the Limpopo leadership. An attempt to unseat Premier Cassel Mathale as the provincial chairman failed at the Limpopo ANC conference last year, but the crosshairs are still clearly imprinted on his forehead. The pro-Zuma faction, spurred on by Cosatu and the SACP, want Mathale and his Cabinet to be fired and the ANC provincial executive to be dissolved.

The ANC national leadership has been reluctant to act on Limpopo as it has been unable to test the power and support of the provincial leadership up to now. Zuma supporters are therefore on a full out war now to prove that Mathale and his coterie do not have complete control of the province and that they are facing a growing insurgence against them. 

The Limpopo leadership has been immersed in widespread allegations of corruption and poor performance but these have been difficult to pin down. The delays in the delivery of textbooks to Limpopo schools however lifted the lid on the extent of the dysfunction in the provincial administration, but even then Zuma has dragged his feet on decisive action.

The corruption case against former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema and his business associates has the potential however to blow open the abuse of state resources by an ANC network operating in the province, particularly through the manipulation of government tenders. While allegations of collusion between state officials and politically connected politicians have circulated for years, the Malema case is the only real attempt to probe them. Malema claims the case is politically motivated and a continuation of the hit against him by Zuma and his circle, which began with the ANC disciplinary action against him.

But Zuma’s supporters are not satisfied by Malema’s expulsion from the ANC and the legal onslaught against him. They believe that while the network has been exposed at provincial level, those operating in Malema’s cabal have relocated to local government level and are still able to access state funds through politically controlled municipalities.

The Zuma camp has therefore used the Mangaung battle to get a foothold in the province and to muscle support away from the provincial leadership. Out of the over 500 delegates at the Limpopo conference, Zuma supporters claim to have 194 on their side, which they say shows that the province is not the forces of change stronghold it is assumed to be.     

But by coming out in support of Motlanthe, the provincial leadership in Limpopo has shown they will not give up the fight easily. Even though Zuma’s re-election might by a done deal through the sway of support in other provinces, Limpopo is determined to remain the last outpost and still wants to force a ballot on the presidency. For the provincial leadership and Malema, it is not only a demonstration of a vote of no confidence in the president, but their resolve not to surrender the province.

After Mangaung, the fight back will come. Zuma supporters will be out to avenge their loss at the nominations conference and will increase the pressure on the national leadership to purge anti-Zuma forces. Only the balance of forces in Mangaung will determine whether Zuma and Mantashe have sufficient support to wrestle Limpopo away from the Mathale-Malema nexus.

As with many other cases, nowhere in this battle does service delivery, the dysfunctional education and health systems and a quest for clean governance feature. It is the biggest indicator yet that Mangaung will not be the end of the power battles in the ANC but rather the start of a new chapter. Get ready. DM

Photo: ANC Limpopo leader and Premier Kassel Mathale (Greg Nicolson)


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Since its release, Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book Gangster State, has sparked numerous fascist-like behavior from certain members of the public (and the State). There have been planned book burnings, disrupted launches and Ace Magashule has openly called him a liar. And just to say thanks, a R10m defamation suit has been lodged against the author.

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