South Africa

Dateline Mangaung: Zuma reigns as credentials holds up conference

By Ranjeni Munusamy 17 December 2012

In a repeat of the ANC’s gripping Polokwane conference in 2007, the party’s 53rd national conference is held up due to disputes over delegate credentials. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe summoned warring factions in the North West and Free State on Monday morning in an effort to resolve wrangles over their delegations delaying the conference. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY/NewsFire.

The entire Free State and North West delegations were asked to step out of the conference on Monday morning while the plenary discussed their continued participation.

Irrespective of the hitches, President Jacob Zuma is coasting to a second term as ANC president with his overwhelming support among delegates evident.

When Zuma made a grand entrance onto the stage at the ANC’s 53rd national conference, there was absolutely no doubt as to who was the most popular person in the giant marquee. Delegates erupted in cheers and song as he joined his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, who is challenging him for the presidency, and the top leadership of the party on the stage.

Motlanthe, in his usual unassuming manner, had been sitting quietly among the other party officials and national executive committee members, seemingly unperturbed by the brimming exuberance of Zuma supporters, who had been singing animatedly since the morning in praise of the president.

As the incumbent, Zuma delivered a comprehensive political report, asserting his leadership and dispelling notions that the ANC is losing grip and leading the country into disarray. In a confidence-building speech after widespread criticism of Zuma’s weak and indecisive leadership, he said: “We want to dismiss the perceptions that our country is falling apart because of the (ratings) downgrades. We continue to do our development work, we continue to plan for a recovery.”

Zuma also used the platform and captive audience of the ANC top brass as well the large domestic and international media contingent to renounce the divisions and turmoil in the ruling party, which have now spilt over in the court.

Alien tendencies such as negative lobbying for positions and smear campaigns in the media should be eliminated, Zuma media.

“Also common are the disrespectful public spats as well as hurling insults at other comrades or members of the public, thereby bringing the ANC into disrepute… We must frown upon other alien practices such as the use of money to buy the support of ANC members,” Zuma said. 

Motlanthe, the underdog, will not have an opportunity to address the conference and his chances of beating Zuma are fast diminishing. In Limpopo, which is supporting his bid for the presidency, divisions were apparent in the opening session as some delegates sang in support of Zuma while others chanted making the substitution sign, calling for leadership change.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe left the stage briefly during Zuma’s speech and walked down to Limpopo premier and ANC provincial chairman Cassel Mathale to warn him to stop his delegation from making the change sign. Later ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete asked the conference to stop singing divisive songs and only sing songs that would unite the ANC. These were all moves by the ANC to close ranks and clamp down on the discord that defined the run up to the Mangaung conference.

But the dispute over delegate credentials remains a sticking point. The conference was adjourned after midnight on Sunday without the crucial credentials report, which determines the composite voting numbers, being presented. There is now a flurry of activity to resolve the outstanding disputes province by province by the ANC’s credentials committee, which includes ANC deputy secretary general Thandi Modise and head of campaigns, Fikile Mbalula.

Apart from the much-publicised wrangles in the Free State and North West, both of which were subjected to court action, there also disputes in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces. On Monday morning, Mantashe summoned dissidents from the North West and Free State to discuss the disputes in an effort to break the logjam.

The conference cannot proceed with the nominations and voting processes until the disputes are resolved and the credentials report adopted. Party officials were hopeful however that the credential report would be finalised on Monday so that the much-anticipated nominations for the ANC top six would happen later in the day.

With Zuma almost guaranteed re-election, the race for the position of deputy president has taken centre stage with businessman Cyril Ramaphosa in the mix after a long absence from active politics. With Ramaphosa effectively the number two on the Zuma ticket, he looks set to trounce Motlanthe, national treasurer Mathews Phosa and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale for the position. Ramaphosa has confirmed his acceptance of nomination for the deputy president position but might still back out of the race at the 11h hour due to his reluctance to go head-to-head with Motlanthe. DM

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