South Africa

ROAD TO ELECTIVE CONFERENCE

ANC Eastern Cape launches last-ditch efforts to save provincial forum

From left: Eastern Cape provincial task team convener Oscar Mabuyane (Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / Masi Losi) | MEC Babalo Madikizela. (Photo: Facebook)

With just a few days until the ANC’s Eastern Cape conference, the party is still dealing with internal squabbles. The event will be a key indicator of whether Cyril Ramaphosa can win another term as party president.

The ANC in the Eastern Cape has still not resolved its administrative issues ahead of its provincial conference, which is due to take place over the weekend in East London.

Provincial task team (PTT) coordinator Lulama Ngcukayitobi sent out an urgent meeting invitation on Tuesday evening to National Executive Committee (NEC) members and members of the provincial leadership to discuss the conference’s pending matters. 

The meeting is set to take place on Wednesday at 5pm.

The PTT and NEC will discuss the eligibility of people who have existing cases with the party’s National Disciplinary Committee of Appeal and whether they can participate in the provincial conference. 

The secretary-general’s office (SGO), which is run by party treasurer Paul Mashatile, has been asked to provide further clarity on this matter.

The PTT and NEC will then discuss the Dr WB Rubusana and Chris Hani branches, which were under investigation, and look at the state of readiness for the provincial conference.

The Eastern Cape Division of the High Court, in East London, on Tuesday pronounced that the ANC’s Dr WB Rubusana regional conference, which was scheduled to begin on 8 April, is interdicted pending the finalisation of all internal appeals processes.

Mashatile has directed both the Dr WB Rubusana and Sarah Baartman regions not to proceed with their pending conferences. This means that the two regions can only go to conferences after the provincial leadership is voted in.

“The latest judgment once more affirms the rigorousness of the new centralised membership system and further vindicates the decision of the SGO, suspending the convening of the regional conferences pending the resolution of outstanding disputes. 

“The current disputes include, amongst others, allegations of membership manipulation leading to the inflation of membership numbers in certain branches. The ANC will uphold the decision of the court and cure all procedural violations as identified. We will ensure that the legitimacy of our branches is restored and protected,” the ANC said in a statement.

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This weekend is supposed to see the ANC elect its third provincial structure leadership when the Eastern Cape provincial task team convener, Oscar Mabuyane, and former treasurer Babalo Madikizela go head to head for the top position. 

However, if they do not manage to resolve internal issues, the conference might not materialise.

If the conference is postponed, it will not be for the first time. Just two weeks ago, the Eastern Cape ANC’s provincial working task team postponed the conference because of administrative issues.

In a letter addressed to regional and provincial structures, dated 21 April, provincial task team coordinator Ngcukayitobi wrote that the issues they were facing might hinder the progress of the conference and needed to be attended to by organisational structures.

The party’s Eastern Cape structures were at the time dealing with a row over unresolved disputes, which led to the verification report not being signed by Mashatile. A group of party members was set to interdict the conference, with at least two law firms writing to the provincial leadership regarding members’ grievances.

The party’s provincial leadership is supposed to be elected during a three-day conference at the East London International Convention Centre. 

Mabuyane is believed to have support from the Chris Hani region, where he started his political career, as well as the OR Tambo region, while Madikizela has been endorsed by four of the eight regions in the province. 

The OR Tambo region will have 348 voting delegates; the Chris Hani region will have 222 delegates and the Dr WB Rubusana region will have 152 delegates. The Alfred Nzo region is expected to be represented by 205 voting delegates, Sarah Baartman by 101 delegates and Nelson Mandela Bay by 101. The Joe Gqabi region will have 88 delegates and the Amathole region will have 224 delegates.

The Eastern Cape, like KwaZulu-Natal, plays an important role in the election of national party leaders at the end of the year. The Eastern Cape is one of the few provinces that actually won a majority of votes for the governing party in the 2021 local government elections.

ANC party leader Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to be nominated for a second term, while Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and former health minister Zweli Mkhize have also been campaigning for positions in the top six.

If Mabuyane wins with a majority of the votes at the conference, this would put Ramaphosa at an advantage for the national conference in December.

On the other hand, Mkhize and Sisulu have decided to work together, which means they will be hoping that Madikizela emerges as the provincial leader this weekend. A close ally said there was no possibility that Madikizela would betray Mkhize and added that even the former OR Tambo municipal council speaker Xolile Nkompela, who will contest the deputy chair position, is aligned with the former health minister’s slate.

This would be a major boost for their campaign, but both Madikizela and Mkhize have been implicated in wrongdoing and could become casualties of the party’s step-side policy. 

The NEC held a special sitting last week where they discussed the controversial rule, which did not initially say whether members who had stepped aside voluntarily could stand for election to executive structures. The NEC decided that members who had stepped aside voluntarily following an indictment to appear in a court of law on any charge should not be allowed to stand for a position, from branch to national level. 

Mkhize has not yet been criminally charged for his alleged involvement in the Digital Vibes scandal, while an investigation by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that Madikizela — who was then employed by the Eastern Cape provincial government — personally benefited from funds meant for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s memorial service, to the amount of R350,000. DM

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