Johannesburg – ANC Free State members are angry that the province is holding a "surprise" provincial general council (PGC) on Tuesday to consolidate branches' leadership nominations ahead of the December elective conference. Party members were caught off guard when an announcement was made to the media and members of the party late on Monday afternoon to say that the PGC would be held in Parys. The announcement was made via SMS and email. "Provincial Executive Committee members kindly note that there will be a PGC tomorrow, Tuesday 28 November at 11:00 at Woodlands Lodge in Parys," the SMS read. Unhappy party members have questioned the timing of the PGC. The province is still dealing with disputes from branch general meetings, held to nominate national leaders, and members of the party were in court on Monday challenging the BGM processes towards the provincial elective conference.The PGC was only expected later in the week, after Secretary General Gwede Mantashe told journalists it would be held simultaneously with the province’s elective congress scheduled for December 1 to 3. "We thought it would be a waste of resources and energy to separate the two activities," Mantashe said last week.Some members of the party in the province told News24 they were taken aback by the announcement and labelled it a desperate move by chairperson Ace Magashule to deliver his province to party presidential hopeful Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Magashule is in the Dlamini-Zuma camp and has been nominated by the Women's and Youth League as their preferred candidate for the secretary general position.Manipulating processesSo far only two provinces, the Western Cape and Northern Cape, have held PGCs, and both nominated Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as their preferred candidate to replace President Jacob Zuma when he steps down as leader of the ANC in two weeks' time.One Free State leader, who did not want to be named, told News24 that Magashule was trying to manipulate processes through a "surprise PGC"."PGCs are linked to the national conference. You cannot run them when there are BGM disputes being won against the province. What about the branches which have been ordered to rerun BGMs, and the court case? BGMs are being questioned," said the regional leader.He accused Magashule of forcing the PGC in order to deliver the Free State province to his "national handlers".The regional leader told News24 that they wanted to see Magashule’s attempts thwarted and were prepared to fight him in the courts and on the streets.The province, which has been marred by court cases ahead of its long overdue elective conference and national conference, is awaiting a ruling on a legal bid to interdict its Friday provincial congress. The verdict is set to be delivered on Wednesday. Magashule's 25-year grip on the province as chairperson is being challenged by his deputy, Thabo Manyoni.'Desperate'A former provincial leader, who refuses to recognise Magashule and his Provincial Executive Committee as legitimate, also described the announcement and decision to hold the PGC ahead of a court judgment as desperate."This is the chair’s only path to a national career in the ANC," said the former leader.The party member, who once worked closely with Magashule, said the Free State chair needed to get his province to national conference and would do whatever it took to achieve this.The ANC’s spokesperson in the province, Thabo Meeko, has however rubbished the claims. He told News24 there was nothing untoward about the announcement."We decided to convene the PGC. It's nothing else but to come and make a reflection of the nominations by the branches," said Meeko.He insisted their gathering had nothing to do with the court case and that the ANC in the Free State were not disregarding that process."The ANC is not going to stop breathing because there is court. Of course, people are continuing to take us to court, but ANC processes must happen," he said.Meeko said the court case was about the provincial congress set to take place at the weekend.He insisted that the PGC announcement was properly communicated to members and said no one was caught by surprise.Meeko also attributed complaints about the announcement to those aggrieved over leadership preference issues.