Johannesburg - A jovial ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe says they have done all they can to ensure the success of the party’s 54th national conference.
The road to Nasrec has been marred by multiple legal challenges, violent provincial conferences, fierce contestation over who will replace Jacob Zuma, allegations of intimidation ahead of branch nominations, and fights over the allocation of delegates.
Disgruntled Free State members have approached the Bloemfontein High Court in an attempt to block the province from sending delegates to the national elective conference.
Mantashe has, however, played down the expected showdown over credentials.
He said branch delegates had done pre-registration to ensure a smooth process.
"We are going to the conference, we have done everything… we have developed a whole master list of delegates as nominated by branches. The pre-registration will be reconciled to see if there are deviations, so we are ready for conference," Mantashe told reporters ahead of the final national executive committee meeting.
Last week, provinces were fighting over the number of allocated delegates, with KwaZulu-Natal demanding its size to be increased by more than a hundred people. The province, which is backing presidential candidate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has the highest number of delegates, at 870.
However, a provincial leader from another province said a meeting with Mantashe and provincial secretaries was held on Tuesday, and that KwaZulu-Natal's demands had been shot down.
"There will be no number increase. All provinces will stick with the delegates allocated to them and provinces will not be allowed to change the names of delegates chosen by branches to represent them," he said.
'There will be no shootout'
The conference will get underway on Saturday, with Zuma delivering his final address as ANC president. Mantashe will deliver the organisational report - which is expected to be "frank" - on the challenges facing the almost 106-year-old organisation.
Nominations are scheduled for Saturday, but the president and deputy president elections have been separated. Delegates will first vote for president, national chairperson, secretary general and treasurer general, with results expected on Sunday.
Then nominations for deputy president and deputy secretary general are expected to follow on Sunday, after the results of the other four positions are announced.
Dlamini-Zuma is facing off against her rival, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, for top position.
"There will be no shootout, there will be elections… on Sunday, you will have a new president," Mantashe said.
Separating the election of the president and deputy president is seen as an attempt to try and remove slate voting that has entrenched itself in ANC elections.
However, some leaders have turned down Zuma's proposal for the loser in the battle for the presidency to stand for the deputy position. This has been seen as an attempt by Zuma to ensure that if Dlamini-Zuma loses the battle for presidency, she can still stand for second in command in the party. Deputy president candidate Lindiwe Sisulu has slammed the move.
Intense lobbying expected
"That is almost jigging something for a particular purpose. We have never done it. Elections are laid down in the code of conduct and procedures. It's almost like saying, in a particular election, first we will vote for mayor of the town, then speaker… it's an unmanageable thing and you will be tweaking it to suit a particular situation when you are outside bounds," Sisulu said.
Talks between provincial chairpersons to find an arranged leadership have deadlocked, as neither of the two presidential candidates were willing to stand down from the presidential race.
However, intense lobbying is set to continue on the conference floor.
Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile told News24 that another meeting between party provincial chairpersons was scheduled for Thursday, after the final National Executive Committee meeting at the Nasrec Expo Centre, south of Johannesburg.
Mashatile, who has been part of long drawn out talks led by Mpumalanga chairperson David Mabuza - who has called for a "Unity" slate - conceded that the negotiations were "difficult".
"Because we have different views about who must lead, it’s never easy. That is why you have contestation, but the spirit is good, the discussions are good. Almost all the leaders are saying unity is critical for the ANC to survive going forward," he said.
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