Tension builds in run-up to Mpumalanga conference

2012-03-31 06:55

Gun slinging, intimidation, beatings, fraud and insults sound more characteristic of bars in Western films than ANC branch meetings.

But in Mpumalanga, the ruling party branches’ nominations ahead of next month’s leadership conference have been tension-filled affairs.

More than 100 concerned members from the province’s 414 branches have lodged disputes with provincial secretary, Lucky Ndinisa, just before the cut-off date for nominations last weekend.

If not resolved soon, the disputes may derail the provincial conference, scheduled for April 6.

Premier David Mabuza is facing a challenge to his position as provincial chairperson as his former allies – deputy chairperson Charles Makola and MEC Clifford Mkasi, who brought him the Nkangala and Bohlabela regions and victory in 2008 – have become disillusioned with his leadership and will stand against him.

City Press has copies of a sample of 55 complaints from individual branches that were submitted to Ndinisa’s office since December.

More disputes have flowed in, with members in the Nkangala region alone having registered 61 complaints.

The complaints point fingers at Mabuza allies for allowing branch meetings which have not reached a quorum, to sit. There have also been allegations of members’ signatures being forged, and anti-Mabuza members being excluded.

Two weeks ago, legislature member Meshack Malinga was arrested for allegedly confiscating candidate nomination forms from a branch secretary in Middelburg. Such forms are handed over at branch meetings and then sent to Ndinisa’s office in a sealed box to be counted.

But Mpumalanga ANC spokesperson Paul Mbenyane denied that there were disputes.

“I’ve not seen any dispute. Those people communicating such information are not representing the ANC ... they’re mischievous elements,” he said.

The provincial leadership conference was initially scheduled for February, but had to be postponed many times due to delayed branch audits.

Mabuza consolidated his control of the province last year when his allies won all the regional conferences in the Ehlanzeni, Nkangala, Gert Sibande and Bohlabela regions amid the same allegations of fraud. His allies are also accused of abusing their positions to stifle any challenge to him in the build-up to the conference.

The Mabuza camp has been circulating a text message that predicts a landslide victory for their man. The message says he has the backing of 326 branches while Makola has only 35. It also says that 946 delegates will vote for Mabuza and only 101 for Makola.

The Makola camp circulated their own text message dismissing the Mabuza camp’s SMS as propaganda and predicting victory in three regions. They will be calling for manual vote counting and the banning of cellphones during voting.

“We won’t allow any space for rigging the votes. In the past, delegates were taking photos of their ballots to show their masters that they had indeed voted for them so that they could be paid,” said a Makola campaigner, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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