With the ANC’s unity horse only just out of the starting gates for that long hard run to 2014 election, an insurrection is rising in the North West Province aimed at ousting the party’s provincial leadership. The rebel forces say they are saving the ANC, but is this a battle for the soul of the ruling party, or a war about who gets what resources? By MANDY DE WAAL & THAPELO LEKGOWA.
In blistering heat that peaked at 31°C, on Thursday, ANC members packed the ‘Ou Kerk’ in the North West town of Klerksdorp to capacity for a meeting called to denounce decisions taken by the ruling party’s provincial leadership. At issue was the decision by Supra Mahumapelo, China Dodovu and their allies to oust NW provincial secretary, Kabelo Mataboge.
One of the youngest ANC provincial secretaries ever, Mataboge was a driver behind the ‘Forces of Change’ campaign to rebuild the ruling party from within, and was an aggressive lobbyist for Kgalema Motlanthe to take the ANC presidential vote during the run-up to the ANC elective conference in Mangaung. On the eve of the conference Mataboge was suspended, a few days after he survived an assassination attempt on his way home from an ANC meeting.
Insiders driving the Klerksdorp forum claim the ANC’s provincial leadership is taking unprecedented decisions outside of their mandate, decisions that are based purely on ensuring their access to resources. The meeting discussed the suspension of Tlokwe Chief Whip, David Kham, who was said to be the mastermind behind staging a motion of no confidence in the Mayor of Tlokwe (Maphetle Maphetle), which saw the DA take power in the academic city formerly known as Potchefstroom. Other issues raised, included changes to regional structures, which regional ANC leaders believe have been affected by provincial leadership to allegedly rig the 2014 elections.
The meeting was attended by ANC delegates from the Kenneth Kaunda, Bojanala, Bophirima and Ngaka Modiri Molema districts, and was organised by the sub-regional coordinators and conveners and financed by attending branches.
“We do not need permission from the PEC (North West Provincial Executive Council) to gather as branches. The constitution of the ANC allows us to meet,” Tshepo Phehlu, ANC sub-regional coordinator for Tlokwe region, told Daily Maverick, with defiance in his voice.
“The PEC in the North West is a virus that is busy destroying the movement of the people,” said Phehlu, who added that the main focus of the meeting was to look at a strategy for dealing with the PEC within the province. “We have noticed that the PEC does not have the interest of the ANC at heart but they are more into deployments and their own economic survival,” Phehlu said.
The forum in Klerksdorp was resolute and united in agreeing that it “did not recognise the PEC anymore.” An ANC delegate at the meeting, who didn’t want to be named, said that the PEC still needed to be notified of this decision taken by the branches.
“In the meantime we will have to go on a serious mobilising process, as we are aware of the tactics that the PEC will apply from here. There will be mass suspensions and redeployments within the province,” said the delegate. “Our call is to build the ANC and the PEC is not the ANC. We, the branches, are the ANC.”
The problems in the North West are structural and cyclical. In an article titled “ANC’s shootings and shootouts in the ‘problem’ province of North West”, political analyst Theo Venter explained the origin of the schisms that rooted the rot in that province.
In short, Venter said that when SA became a democracy, fractious groups were unhappy with the geographic boundaries they were given after the former homelands were incorporated into the country. Nelson Mandela, president at the time, brought in an outsider – Popo Molefe – to resolve the fighting. The UDF and Black Consciousness stalwart, who was premier at the time, sought to resolve the fighting by getting each faction to “share the spoils” or to find contentment in dividing the resources amongst them. All this did was to entrench leadership battles and create a cyclical problem where the elite sharing the spoils seek to disenfranchise anyone who disagrees with them, creating isolated pockets of power.
The rebellion that brewed at Klerksdorp doesn’t want a Mahumapelo-led province, and wants its secretary general, Mataboge, back. The forum wants ANC national structures to recognise that the leadership it elected at Mangaung is corrupt and self-serving.
“We are aware of the challenges we might face going forward, hence we hope the NEC will be quick to intervene,” said an ANC insider. “The embarrassment experienced by our fellow comrades in Mangaung was something that has been coming for a while now and we fully blame the PEC for that. When the likes of Supra (Mahumapelo) started deploying cadres aligned to them, no questions were asked.”
“This made us invisible and showed us that the PEC thinks they can walk over everything and everyone in the organisation. That time is over – now branches are taking over the ANC.”
The talk is of saving the ANC from the ‘mafia’. The ANC in the North West declined to comment on the insurgency brewing in the province, and referred Daily Maverick’s calls to regional and branch members involved in the meeting, who were unwilling to go on record.
On one level this looks like a noble battle; the good guys fighting the bad guys to retain control of service delivery, in a province where favours for cadres is killing that service delivery. A Special Investigating Unit report which has been seen and is being debated by the North West Provincial Government, and which Daily Maverick has had sight of, is a damning indictment of a system enabling cadres to eat from the trough, instead of serving the communities that have elected them into power.
The question that begs asking is whether this effort to remove Mahumapelo and company is a genuine ‘Force of Change’ for the good, or an effort to drive the incumbent leaders into the wilderness, so that new blood can access the resources at hand. Ironically, Mahumapelo and his allies used exactly the same tactics to rise to power.
The North West Forum, as they have called themselves, will be meeting again on Saturday to decide how to take things forward and to force a change from the national ANC leadership, who are more entrenched and confident than ever. It is likely that the ANC leadership will move hard and fast to quash this rebellion, but given that this fault line is set deep in the ruling party’s structure, it might not be an easy job. DM
Photo by Reuters.