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ROAD TO ELECTIVE CONFERENCE

Technical glitches could see some ANC Free State branches excluded from the national conference

Technical glitches could see some ANC Free State branches excluded from the national conference
Illustrative image | Source: An ANC flag. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

The ANC in the Free State is racing against time to ensure that all its branches can convene meetings before 25 October, the cut-off date for the nominations of national leaders.

A major stumbling block for the Free State has been the scanner system which the ANC uses to determine how many people are present at their branch meetings. The system picks up whether a quorum was reached, the location of the meeting and whether all those present are ANC members in good standing and belong to the branch.

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Speaking to Daily Maverick, ANC provincial spokesperson Oupa Khoabane said the technical glitches were a concern as some branches might be  completely excluded from the national conference in December. The province is supposed to send 301 delegates to the conference.

“Our worry is the deadline for national conference nominations, which will be in 15 days from now,” he said.

The ANC had to extend its deadline for the nominations owing to “rolling blackouts, industrial action by its own staff, and flawed internal systems”.  The process was initially expected to conclude on 2 October.

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Khoabane explained that QR codes for the branch meetings, coming from the ANC’s national office, have been incorrect. Before a meeting, branches report to the national office about exactly when and where the gathering will take place. In some cases, a branch will receive a QR code which belongs to another branch, and when this occurs, it means the meeting cannot begin because the scanner detects that it is a different location from where it was loaded.

There is another problem relating to the demarcation of branches. Some members have been shifted to new branches, but the system shows that they are still part of their former branch.

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The province needs at least 223 out of 319 Free State branches to have held their meetings in order to reach the required 70% threshold. The province had convened less than 100 branch meetings successfully.

In a letter written by ANC Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile to all regional and provincial branch secretaries, dated 8 October, he informed them that the rule about branch members having to scan their identification within six hours had been dropped.

“A number of challenges were experienced during the first two weeks of BGMs [branch general meetings]. This resulted in meetings starting late. As a consequence, a number of branches were not able to complete the scanning of eligible members to attend within the six hours allocated for this purpose. Consequently, the requirement to complete scanning within six hours from the start of the meeting has been scrapped. Accordingly, scanning can take place up to 11pm on the day of the BGM. This should assist branches to complete their processes,” the letter reads.

Provincial conference

Khoabane explained that the branches had been encouraged to hold national leadership discussions and nominations concurrently with the election of new branch leaders. In that way, they were also preparing for the provincial conference. 

The Free State and Western Cape are the only two provinces that have not been able to hold their provincial conferences. The Free State has also not held any of its regional conferences. 

“If we get the 70% threshold, we will obviously go to the provincial conference and then have regional conferences afterwards. If we can have a provincial conference, maybe by the end of the month, we can still have regional conferences in November,” he said.

ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said there was no intention to halt the Free State provincial and regional conferences. He said branch secretaries had received the requisite training to use the equipment.

“Technical glitches cannot be allowed to hamper a political programme to renew our organisation… that is why we have a team that does troubleshooting,” he said.

Legal action

Meanwhile, the ANC Free State is facing legal action from members of the Mangaung region. On Thursday 6 October, they filed an application at the Free State High Court. 

Ditaba Mokhutle, Nonzenza Cezula and Thabiso Siliane blame the provincial leadership for the slow pace of conference preparations. They want the Interim Provincial Committee (IPC), led by Mxolisi Dukwana, and the Mangaung Interim Regional Committee (IRC), to be removed. They believe the structures have not effectively carried out their duties, including convening conferences.

The trio wants a new interim structure to be established, consisting of  individuals who are not from the province, to run the affairs of the ANC Free State until a new PEC is voted in.

The application states that the Mangaung IRC is an illegal structure as their time in office had lapsed. In addition to this, their argument is that the IRC is unsuitable to oversee any proceedings pertaining to branch, regional or provincial conferences.

However, Khoabane believes these grievances should not be taken to court, but instead be dealt with by the party.

“My personal opinion is that those issues should undergo internal processes of the ANC. It is something that arises from the membership system and not designed by any leaders in the province. So, you have to have discussions internally where people are able to have a sit-down. 

“If I was the judge, I would give them a bit of time and advise everyone to discuss the matter, because these things do not belong in a court. We are working hard to ensure that the branch meetings are convening,” he said. DM

This article was amended for accuracy at 8.07am on 11 October 2022.

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