ANC eThekwini region votes amid factional violence

2015-02-15 06:00

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The ANC’s biggest and most influential region – eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal – has finally held its twice-postponed elective conference against a backdrop of intense tensions, and even violence, between the supporters of the two main contenders to chair the region.

Yesterday, disputes over credentials were still being resolved at midday, delaying the start of the conference by more than three hours, as supporters of Durban Mayor James Nxumalo and his rival, executive committee member Zandile Gumede, haggled to ensure that their opponents gained no unfair advantage through loading delegations in their favour.

The previous day had seen ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala battling to calm temperatures among angry delegates, with Gumede’s supporters claiming the race was being rigged in favour of Nxumalo, who they claimed was being backed by the provincial leadership.

While delegates supporting both candidates arrived singing songs backing them, the tensions were well managed, with speakers, including representatives of alliance partners, hammering delegates over the unruly build-up to the conference.

There was a very strong police presence inside and outside the venue, while ANC security personnel flooded the conference hall and the passageways outside.

Several delegates were turned away at security checkpoints for carrying firearms during the course of the morning before the conference got under way.

Nomarashia Caluza, SA Communist Party provincial treasurer, called on delegates to “defeat money and patronage” by voting for candidates based on their ability and not their capacity to hand out sweeteners in return.

Premier and ANC provincial chairperson Senzo Mchunu defended the work of the provincial task team appointed to oversee the conference preparations after the second bid to hold it was abandoned because a large number of branches had been unable to hold their general meetings to elect conference delegates.

Describing the preconference tensions as “so thick you could cut them with a knife”, Mchunu said the acts of violence and the carrying of guns to ANC meetings during the branch general meeting process had been a disgrace.

While there were “no angels”, Mchunu said acts such as insulting provincial leaders, including Zikalala, over their intervention, had to be condemned.

“We condemn this kind of conduct, no matter where it comes from,” said Mchunu.

He said all of those involved in acts of “unfit conduct” would face disciplinary action after the conference.

The infighting, Mchunu said, weakened the ANC’s control of the metro, which opposition parties such as the Economic Freedom Fighters and the DA coveted.

Delegates from both camps needed to make use of the “bridges” the leadership had built, to allow them to work together after the conference.

“You need to be mindful that in this process we have to build the ANC, especially for the period beyond the conference,” Mchunu said.

At the time of writing, voting for the regional leadership was set to start, with registration having closed shortly after 1pm.

Both Nxumalo and Gumede had indicated they would contest the chairperson’s post. The other nominees were not known at the time of writing.

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