Spotlight on ANC battle in Mpumalanga
Hlengiwe Nhlabathi and Genevieve Quintal, Sapa
Johannesburg - Mpumalanga will be in the spotlight this weekend when ANC provincial chairperson David Mabuza battles it out with health MEC Clifford Mkansi for the top party position.
The party's provincial elective conference - expected to be hotly contested and whose outcome could influence the leadership battle in Bloemfontein - was scheduled to formally begin at Nelspruit's Mbombela Stadium on Friday.
Provincial spokesperson Paul Mbenyane said on Thursday that it was all systems go.
"I can say that we will start on a positive note tomorrow [Friday] and are expecting an incident-free conference," Mbenyane said.
1 500 voting delegates
President Jacob Zuma was expected to address delegates this weekend.
A total of 1 500 voting delegates would attend, a high turnout for an Mpumalanga conference, as only 800 attended the last one, said Mbenyane.
He said the provincial executive committee did not know who would stand for the province's top job despite reports of a contest between Mabuza and Mkansi.
"We don't know who is standing for the position of chairman or any other position," said Mbenyane. "The race will be open to any person."
Mabuza - reportedly a close ally of Zuma - received overwhelming support during the ANC regional conferences, with four regions showed their support for him.
However, he could face a tough fight as the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), the ANC Youth League and the SA Communist Party have voiced their disapproval of him as leader.
Those who want Mabuza removed have repeatedly complained about widespread corruption, divisions within the ANC and political infighting.
Mabuza is also accused of failing to deal with numerous political assassinations in the province while he has held office.
The nomination process was apparently marred, with complaints of irregularities made by ordinary party members.
Mbenyane said members had lodged disputes over a number of issues, but he could not say what they were or how many had been lodged.
A committee, comprising ANC national executive committee members, had been put in place to deal with any complaints. Some of the disputes have already been dealt with, he said.
"Some were genuine concerns and the committee is dealing with them. When it comes to an elective conference you can't satisfy everybody," Mbenyane said.
It is believed that a win by Mabuza will be an indication of how the province will vote at the ANC's elective conference in December.
His rival Mkansi is a former secretary of the Sondelani branch at Thulamahashe outside Bushbuckridge.
Three provinces - Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape - are still to hold elective conferences.
This has to happen before the end of May, as the ANC national executive committee has instructed provinces to hold their conferences before the party's policy conference in June.