Chairs fly in comrade vs comrade battle

2014-09-21 15:02

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With chairs flying and guns drawn, the Mpumalanga ANC’s regional conferences are under threat as factions are trying to sway the vote in their favour ahead of the party’s 2016 provincial conference.

The Bohlabela regional conference in the Bushbuckridge area was postponed last week after ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe intervened.

More than 20 branches opposing the nomination of Premier David Mabuza’s allies for positions approached Mantashe with allegations of fraud and assault. Mantashe told City Press he’d ordered the branches to lodge their complaints with Mpumalanga’s regional executive committee.

“I sent them to the right people. The regional executive committee is their first line of defence and the ANC has structures where people who have issues must go to,” he said.

Though the conference was set down for this weekend, the aggrieved branches are not satisfied with Mantashe’s response.

They allege that deployees from the regional executive committee and the provincial executive committee come to meetings to “steal” branches by disqualifying those who refuse to nominate regional chairperson Gillion Mashego and secretary Mandla Ndlovu.

“Branches that don’t reach a quorum are made to sit as long as they’re going to nominate Mashego and Ndlovu. Comrades who are not toeing the line are taken out of branch membership lists and replaced with their allies,” said a member of the disgruntled group.

In some cases, the meetings have turned violent.

Robert Ratheko of the Ngwaritshana branch was injured and had to be hospitalised after chairs were thrown at him during a meeting on July 12.

“I stood up to tell the regional executive committee deployee to follow processes. Their supporters threw chairs at me and I had a gash on my forehead that was stitched in hospital,” Ratheko said.

At another meeting in Pilgrim’s Rest on July 13, a regional executive committee deployee allegedly pointed a firearm at branch members protesting that their names had been removed from the register.

The Bohlabela region has been one of the most volatile in Mpumalanga.

ANC members trying to unseat Mabuza as the province’s chairperson have been accused of orchestrating service-delivery protests to destabilise the region and tarnish his name.

The violence isn’t confined to Bohlabela.

Branch members from Thembisile Hani Local Municipality in the Nkangala region have opened a criminal case against arts, culture, sport and recreation MEC Norah Mahlangu’s bodyguards after they allegedly fired four shots during a meeting on September 11.

Two branch members claimed Mahlangu, a provincial executive committee deployee, insulted members and left with an attendance register.

They accused her bodyguards of firing shots to disperse members standing near the gate of the school where the meeting was held.

Mahlangu did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Mantashe would not be drawn into commenting about violence in the ANC branches.

“I had never been to an ANC meeting where members produce guns or assault each other,” was all he said on the matter.

Nkangala and Ehlanzeni’s branches are due to sit next month, though some from the latter have threatened they’ll approach Mantashe if the province doesn’t deal with their allegations of branch membership rigging.

Provincial ANC secretary Lucky Ndinisa had not commented at the time of going to press.

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