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28 March 2017 19:44 (South Africa)
South Africa

For warring North West ANC factions, Mangaung is the next battlefield

  • M de Waal & T Lekgowa
    M de Waal & T Lekgowa
  • South Africa
C:\fakepath\mandy nw to mangaung

The countdown to the ANC’s Mangaung conference is underway with global and local media predicting a second term for ANC leader and SA President Jacob Zuma. In the bitterly divided province of North West, Kgalema Motlanthe's supporters claim the nominations process was interfered with by pro-Zuma government members. Seething anger is building; it may boil over at Mangaung. By MANDY DE WAAL and THAPELO LEKGOWA.

Disgruntled and seething ANC members in the North West are on the warpath. Reports from the province reveal that 180 branches have already lodged disputes against the province’s nomination of Jacob Zuma for party leadership, and that more dissent is expected. 

The ANC’s provincial secretary, Kabelo Mataboge, spent the day moving from branch to branch in the North West to discuss these disputes. Mataboge is the North West lobbyist for Kgalema Motlanthe and a driver behind ‘The Forces of Change’. Last week, he survived an assassination attempt, after gunmen opened fire on him outside his house under cover of darkness. Mataboge was returning from a meeting on provincial conference logistics at the time.

Provincial ANC insiders speaking to Daily Maverick off the record said verified and audited branches that were meant to be part of the nominations council were ‘strategically excluded’. These ANC members said, however, that they would be going to Mangaung despite not being authorised, and stressed that they would go in numbers.

The insiders told Daily Maverick they would attempt to take over the Mangaung elective conference as part of a push to ‘save the ANC’. The sentiment was that excluded and jilted ANC members ‘had nothing to lose’, given they were already living with the threat of violence or death continually because of their chosen political position.

The elective conference will be under heavy security, so it is likely that if violence does break out in Mangaung it will be at the edges and outskirts of the conference, where disgruntled ANC members are likely to find themselves facing a determined and heavily armed police force. Alternatively ANC members plotting to disrupt the conference may target individuals outside of the conference itself, if plans to upset the nominations event are frustrated.

The win for Zuma in the North West dealt a blow to the credibility of the ANC election process, following allegations that presidential ally and police minister Nathi Mthethwa interfered with the voting. 

Following these charges, a member of the ANC’s NEC, the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) was quick to slam the outcome of the provincial conference and asked for a re-do.

Earlier The Star reported that Mthethwa allegedly hijacked the North West conference, replaced Motlanthe’s supporters with fake delegates and instructed police to deal with anti-Zuma delegates. A source in the North West told Business Day that about “200 branches were excluded from the nomination conference and around 150 delegates were replaced with other members. New branch reports were added to the nominations from branches during the provincial conference on Sunday”.

The Star reported that Mthethwa allegedly tampered with conference documents and replaced “Motlanthe’s backers with rented crowds mandated to vote for Zuma. So determined was Mthethwa to rig the conference that he allegedly openly side-lined electoral officers, telling them he was an NEC member and they couldn’t tell him anything,” the report read.

“Provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge confirmed on Tuesday night that senior ANC leaders had “hijacked” the conference, adding he was locked inside a bunker leading to the conference venue and denied access,” the report continued.

Daily Maverick spoke to ANC branch members in the North West who confirmed Mthethwa’s interference and said the police minister “indeed played a huge role in swinging votes to the Zuma camp”, but were fearful of speaking out and were afraid of being “silenced for good”. 

An ANC branch member – who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears for his life – said that regions were supposed to have followed guidelines set by Luthuli House and were to have put their nominations inside sealed boxes. “The boxes were disregarded by Nathi Mthethwa. He was going against advice and process, and there were names that were put in unaudited and not verified by the secretary of the province who was denied access into the conference because he allegedly did not have his identity document.  This is clearly sabotage,” said the man, who added that voting processes and rules were undermined. 

“It is the first time I saw the provincial chair in the ANC become part of the verification process, where as he knows very well that this is the secretary’s terrain.  It became clear at that point that something was fishy.” The provincial secretary is tasked with voting administration, but in the North West the secretary was denied access and the pro-Zuma chair, Supra Mahumapelo oversaw the nomination process, flouting ANC rules in this regard.

“I can give you an overview but do not wish to comment on the specifics,” businessman and ANCYL member in the North West Romeo Matjila told Daily Maverick, giggling nervously. “I am clearly and openly behind Kgalema Motlanthe for President. The deployment of Nathi Mthethwa to the province was deliberate (and aimed) to disrupt and disperse the flow in the province towards Motlanthe,” he said, and added that the Zuma camp were in for a serious shock at Mangaung.

Daily Maverick’s sources said that there was a serious problem with intimidation by the pro-Zuma faction backed by the SAPS.  Members told Daily Maverick that “Zuma’s people were allowed in based on the T-shirts that they were wearing, and for those who were wearing casual clothes and not clothing that was a signifier of allegiance, well they were shot at (by the SAPS) to get them to disperse”.

When asked about what happened at the conference, members spoke of violence or threats of violence in the province, and said they were scared to speak on the record. They explained that political violence was conducted craftily and in such a way so that it couldn’t be documented or reported on. 

Insiders said that at the branch level, branch organisers who were outspoken against Zuma were targeted at shebeens or in public areas where they would be beaten up. This would be staged to appear like a bar-room brawl, when in fact it was targeted political violence.

“A lot of the violence and fighting takes place in shebeens or areas where the community gathers. One can clearly see that this is factionalism and that people are being targeted and beaten so that they get the message that talking out is dangerous,” Daily Maverick was told.

ANC members repeatedly told Daily Maverick that their biggest fear was being silenced, disciplined or killed. “What everyone is talking about is being silenced, and being silenced for good,” we were told.

Despite what media reports and eyewitnesses said, the ANC itself rubbished allegations of Mthethwa’s involvement. “The African National Congress is outraged by the claim that the Minister of Safety and Security Comrade Nathi Mthethwa and the South African Police Services took over the running of the North West Provincial Nomination Conference (PNC) over the weekend,” a statement from the party read. 

“This accusation smacks of the worst manipulation of information and misleading the public. We wish to state for the record that the Provincial Nomination Conference was convened and run by the provincial leadership of the North West. This took place after an attempt to convene parallel nomination conferences failed,” the statement said, and added that the voting process at the North West Provincial Nomination Conference (PNC) was endorsed by the Electoral Commission.

The spin war continues alongside the real war, which is of course the battle for position within the ANC, and the privilege that a good rank within the former liberation organisation affords. Pro-Motlanthe supporters say they’re the disciplined group battling relentlessly to restore the ANC’s soul, and that the Zuma-ites are the corrupters. Not to be outdone, the Zuma faction has now taken to calling the pro-Motlanthe groups thieves.

And so the countdown ticks on for what could be the bloodiest battle yet in SA’s young democracy. The streets of Bloemfoentein and the University of Free State's campus may turn out to be a fierce battlefield in the political fight for power and patronage. Such are the days of our South African lives. DM

Read more:

  • Battleground Limpopo: Tooth and nail brawl for Mangaung frontline on Daily Maverick 
  • Police minister in voting scandal on IOL 
  • ANC sends in NEC to fix provincial messes on IOL 
  • ANC's shootings and shootouts in the 'problem' province of North West on Daily Maverick 

Photo by Reuters.

  • M de Waal & T Lekgowa
    M de Waal & T Lekgowa
  • South Africa

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