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ANC PROVINCIAL CONFERENCE

Criminal syndicates operated in the Free State, fleeced the State and collapsed services – ANC political report

Criminal syndicates operated in the Free State, fleeced the State and collapsed services – ANC political report
Mxolisi Dukwana at the 9th ANC provincial conference held at Imvelo Lodge outside Bloemfontein on 21 January 2023 Photo:Felix Dlangamandla

During its two-year tenure, the Free State ANC’s Interim Provincial Committee (IPC) grappled with criminal syndicates that operated in the corridors of the state and were fleecing it dry resulting in the collapse of services, the party’s political report reads.

Not only did the syndicates collapse the delivery of services in all spheres of government but they also went as far as sowing factional divisions seeking to steadily squeeze the life out of the ANC. 

The political report was delivered by IPC convenor, Mxolisi Dukwana on Saturday at the party’s 9th provincial conference held in Bloemfontein. The official opening of the conference was delayed nearly by 24 hours owing to grievances, violence, protests and threats of litigation. 

 “When we took over, almost all regional structures and branches were operating beyond their mandates as enshrined in the ANC constitution. The organisation was beset by divisions and factional arraignment which steadily squeezed the life out of the organisation…”    

“Although these challenges were not unique to the Free State province, it is generally agreed that they were more pronounced here in our province,” said Dukwana.  

Last year the province, along with the Western Cape, were the only two that could not convene their conferences before the party’s 55th national conference which saw party president Cyril Ramaphosa clutch a second term.   

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tensions in Free State could lead to ‘violence and possible loss of lives’, ANC senior leaders warn

The countless delays in the Free State’s inability to hold conference were also credited to clashes between branches that were still beholden to former Free State strongman Ace Magashule and branches pushing the renewal agenda. 

Factional battles in the province have persisted, and even with the intervention of former president Thabo Mbeki, the province under the leadership of Dukwana has not managed to keep its members in line. 

The IPC was appointed in May 2021 after the Free State ANC‘s 2018 conference that elected Magashule’s ally Sam Mashinini as provincial chairperson was declared unlawful by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), leaving a leadership vacuum for the party in the province.

When it took office, it vowed to build a strong and inclusive organisation, grow quality membership, combat all forms of factionalism, restore political education, improve governance across all spheres and ensure that “we strangle the hegemony of criminal networks.”  

On Saturday Dukwana admitted that their attempts to implement changes were often impeded and as a result, the province remained in bad shape.  

“The reality is that we have not been able to realise many of these objectives for various reasons and this conference must pronounce on these areas. The most notable impediment is that beneficiaries of State Capture (and erosion of the organisation) were not ready to give up without a fight. There was serious resistance both in the organisation and in the government where the majority still enjoyed presence,” he said while delivering the report.  

 Recently elected national chairperson Gwede Mantashe opened the conference at midday and urged the delegates to elect leadership equal to the task and deliberate on critical issues including load shedding and that not a single municipality had received a clean audit in the past five years.   

ANC Chairperson Gwede Mantashe at the 9th ANC provincial conference held at Imvelo Lodge outside Bloemfontein on 21 January 2023 . Photo:Felix Dlangamandla

Read more in Daily Maverick: Fikile Mbalula berates ANC officials after party bigwigs get a close-up view of potholed Free State 

Leadership race

The 9th provincial conference is one of the most highly contested with ten people having been nominated for the province’s top job of chairperson, according to a report submitted to the office of the secretary general.   

The report that Daily Maverick has read also shows that 15 people have been nominated for the position of deputy chairperson. 

Among those nominated are Dukwana, the current mayor, Sefora Ntombela, Thabo Manyoni, Vusumuzi Tshabalala, Sam Mashinini, Makalo Mohale, and William Bulwane.    

There have been suggestions that the contestation was an indication of the divisions that persisted in the province, despite some candidates not meeting the 20% required threshold. Dukwana believed this ought to be celebrated.    

“I am saying we must celebrate the fact that this conference is as highly contested as it is. This is a clear signal that democracy is being restored and that branches have a right to self-definition. It is a victory against the criminal network who had arrogated to itself the position of defining the strategic direction of our organisation internally and in government,” he said.  

The current coordinator of the IPC, Paseka Nompondo, leads the race for the provincial secretary position, with 67 nominations, and is set to battle it out with Polediso Motsoeneng, who received 49 nominations.  

Dibolelo Mahlatsi, with 49 nominations, and Mathabo Leeto, with 48, also met the threshold for the positions of deputy secretary and provincial treasurer respectively. While some candidates may not have met the 20% threshold, they remain eligible to be nominated from the floor. 

Disruptions

The conference was not without protest. A Mangaung delegate, Ditaba Mokhutle claimed that his name had been removed from the list of those set to attend and vowed to hold the party’s leadership accountable.  “We want the leadership of the ANC to come and address us, we are members of the ANC, in good standing for that matter. We elected that leadership. We are activists here, we are not afraid of the police hooligans, how can they shoot people, women who are just protesting.”  

Meanwhile, Vusi Tshabalala who is also a chairperson contender said he was elected to represent his branch at the regional, national, and provincial conferences only to find that his name had been removed.  

“To our surprise, we have been told that we are no longer delegates.”   

Delegates sing at the 9th ANC provincial conference held at Imvelo Lodge outside Bloemfontein on 21 January 2023 . Photo:Felix Dlangamandla

Suspended secretary general Ace Magashule who appeared in court earlier on Friday claimed that processes leading up to the conference had been rigged and that those associated with him were guaranteed to lose. 

Dukwana dismissed the allegations. “I don’t know how you rig a conference. We are mindful of what has been said, especially the rigging. The former SG has been a chairperson in this province for quite some time and he has been having conferences, maybe he should have been asked to elaborate, maybe he knows one or two things about rigging.” 

Ramaphosa is expected to close the conference on Sunday. DM

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