As the ANC prepares to rerun its Free State provincial conference, ruled unlawful in December, disgruntled members marched to Luthuli House on Monday calling on former provincial leader and current party Secretary-General Ace Magashule to recuse himself from the process. By GREG NICOLSON.
“Effectively, nothing has changed,” said Sello Dithebe, a prominent ANC Free State member who has challenged Ace Magashule’s rule in the province.
The Free State comrades marched to Luthuli House and met senior party members to request that the provincial task team established to oversee preparations for the province’s upcoming conference be replaced and for Magashule, the former Free State premier and long-time chairperson, to recuse himself from the process.
Dithebe was part of the delegation who met Senzo Mchunu, the former KwaZulu-Natal leader recently posted to Luthuli House, and newly appointed ANC general manager Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, to complain about the provincial task team and the Free State conference planned for later in March.
The ANC appointed the 15-member provincial task team in January to take the party to its conference. Paseka Nompondo was appointed chairperson and William Bulwane co-ordinator. Nompondo was elected deputy chair in the provincial executive committee (PEC) disbanded by the court in December, and Bulwane secretary. Mamiki Qabathe, elected deputy secretary in December, is also on the task team.
The provincial task team includes some anti-Magashule members, such as his former deputy and later rival Thabo Manyoni, but Dithebe said it was stacked with the secretary-general’s supporters.
“It is clear that there is that hidden hand behind all of this and we submit, respectfully, that it is the hidden hand of the secretary-general,” he said.
In its ruling on the December provincial conference, the court said 14 branch general meetings were not held according to party rules and could not send delegates to the ANC’s national conference in Nasrec. Dithebe said that while leaders aligned to Magashule hold sway in the provincial task team, they plan to send the same delegates ruled out of that conference to the provincial gathering, where new leaders will be elected.
The delegation that met Mchunu and Potgieter-Gqubule on Monday want the provincial task team to be reorganised to include more balance between the province’s factions and for Magashule to be told to recuse himself from any decisions on the province. They also want a full audit of branch membership figures to occur before the province holds its conference. Dithebe said the conference, set for 17 March, must be postponed.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe would not elaborate on the discussions. He said comrades from Free State and the Eastern Cape held meetings with the national ANC, as is often the case. He said reports will be shared internally before the party decides what to do and how to communicate matters publicly.
The ANC entered its December conference with the election of the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal PECs having been declared unlawful. Both provinces were ordered in January by the national executive committee to rerun conferences within three months.
ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa inherited a highly divided party and the divisions could limit the gains he has made since taking over from former President Jacob Zuma.
“This euphoria will be squandered if nothing is done,” said Dithebe, who claimed former members of the ANC had returned after Ramaphosa’s election.
He said divisions within the ANC hamper government service delivery.
“We’re hugely concerned that with months left before the general elections in 2019 we might be caught napping.”
Magashule is yet to resign as premier of the Free State but the provincial task team has recommended that either Sisi Ntombela, Sam Mashinini or Limakatso Mahasa take the province’s top job.
Dithebe claimed that each candidate is loyal to Magashule’s faction. DM
Photo: Newly elected secretary-general Ace Magashule at the ANC elective conference in December, 2017. Photo: Leila Dougan
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