Port Elizabeth - Provincial ANC leaders in the Eastern Cape are having to put out fires after disgruntled members in Nelson Mandela Bay declared war when told the party list submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) could not be changed.
At least 19 wards out of 60 have vowed to bring the city to a standstill from tomorrow if their concerns about list manipulation are not addressed.
“Fairly speaking, yes, it’s been a very tedious process, fraught with a number of challenges, but I think we have reached the end of it,” said Phumulo Masualle, premier and chairman of the ANC in the Eastern Cape, on Thursday. He said the “glitches” would be dealt with after the elections.
But angry ANC members from the affected wards promised not to allow a single ANC campaign poster to be put up ahead of the August 3 local government polls – unless it belonged to one of their preferred candidates.
In Ward 40, an uncontested candidate, who is a councillor, was mysteriously removed from the list and replaced with a name “nobody knows”.
“They have gone against all [President Jacob] Zuma said at the manifesto launch, and are turning our communities into their ‘kingdoms’ to do with as they please,” said a resident who asked to remain anonymous.
ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) member Andile Lungisa said it was only five wards that were involved in the fight. “All the others are just opportunists.”
The disgruntled wards from Port Elizabeth met provincial leaders at the party headquarters in Calata House in King William’s Town on Wednesday, where they were locked in meetings for hours with provincial deputy chairperson Sakhumzi Somyo and deputy secretary Helen Sauls-August.
Masualle’s comments came after 10 of the 19 disgruntled wards from Nelson Mandela Bay protested at the party’s Florence Matomela House, the ANC’s regional offices, on Tuesday, complaining that the lists had been manipulated.
Jay Phillip of Ward 44, which includes KwaNobuhle in Uitenhage, said they were surprised when they found out last weekend that the candidates fielded by the provincial party leaders were not the ones the branches had recommended.
He said that in KwaNobuhle’s Ward 43, a candidate who was number three on the list was made number one, while in another instance, a candidate of the ANC also appeared on the list of the United Front for the same ward.
“This provincial leadership can even field a dog as a candidate against a human being, as long as the dog will do as they say,” said Phillip.
On Thursday, Masualle admitted to City Press he could not rule out the possibility of “ill intentions” in some instances regarding the list process. He attributed most of the problems to the “erroneous capturing” of names into the IEC system.
“As the PEC, we received a report from the PLC [provincial list committee] – charged with the coordination of the list processes – [saying] that the IEC has implemented a new system of registering candidates,” he said.
Masualle said that, in some cases, people erroneously put their ID numbers against other people’s names and, when the IEC registered captured the information using the ID numbers first instead of the names, the wrong people were “accidentally” registered.
He said such errors, unfortunately, were impossible for the ANC to correct, as the IEC had closed the submission date.
“We have explained this problem to those who were complaining – that it was not out of malice.”
The premier said the party’s leadership was addressing concerned branches in Nelson Mandela Bay and that Somyo was scheduled to meet party members there this weekend to ease tensions.
Thembisa Makeleni of Ward 27 in Soweto-On-Sea said it was disingenuous to blame the IEC system when the names were tampered with deliberately by the leadership.
Party members raised the alarm from the affected wards weeks before the lists were submitted to the IEC.
“There will be no campaigning by the ANC in our areas until we are heard,” vowed Makeleni.
Meanwhile, ANC national executive committee member and head of elections Nomvula Mokonyane told City Press that the rapid response team of the ANC – a body made up of party leaders dedicated to dousing fires stemming from list process and other disputes – was on top of things in KwaZulu-Natal, keeping themselves informed of developments.
The volatility in KwaZulu-Natal, caused by battles for the candidates’ list, had led to the killings of some prospective candidates.
She attributed the conflict to “unresolved disputes following regional and provincial conferences”
that took place last year before the nomination and list processes started.
“Provincial leaders – and myself, as I have been deployed to KwaZulu-Natal – have been trying to talk to structures to move beyond the issues of who they would have preferred to have in certain positions.”
In November last year, Sihle Zikalala beat Senzo Mchunu to the top job as chairperson of KwaZulu-Natal at a dramatic provincial conference. The elective conference was delayed on the day of voting amid allegations of ghost delegates and duplication of accreditation, putting into question the credibility of the outcomes.
Speculation was rife for months that Mchunu was on his way out and this was proved correct a few weeks ago. Mchunu resigned and, days later, four members of the executive committee said to be close to him were ditched in a so-called purge of his supporters.
But Mokonyane denied that the recent cabinet reshuffle was in any way linked to the ongoing tensions.
“I don’t think there is a connection, because nobody has been taken out of the ANC. People still remain leaders of the ANC and, in the ANC, you are deployed and redeployed.”
She also dismissed the notion that KwaZulu-Natal was in crisis, saying reports made it appear as if “KwaZulu-Natal is on fire but it is not. It is just a particular area.”
She said it was important for all to move beyond their personal interests, but admitted the party was concerned.
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