ANC Northern Cape members want elective conference postponed

2017-02-24 11:06
Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas (Volksblad)

Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas (Volksblad)

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Johannesburg – There is a strong push to postpone the ANC Northern Cape elective conference amid allegations of gatekeeping and vote buying.

The province's elective conference is set to take place next month.

Branch general meetings to consolidate nominations for the election of the provincial leadership have been plagued by violence.

Sources have told News24 that police have confiscated dangerous weapons, including knives and pangas, during clashes where several meetings were disrupted.

The nomination process has been described as "chaotic" and has left the province "politically unstable" and "deeply divided".

Last week, the provincial lekgotla had to be postponed after ANC members stormed the meeting and rival groups clashed outside.

Sources in the party have described the contest between provincial secretary Zamani Saul and Premier Sylvia Lucas as a fierce battle for the control of the province ahead of the ANC’s national elective conference in December.

They say it has left the party at war with itself in the province.

Saul has openly declared his support for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to take over from President Jacob Zuma. Lucas is expected to back former AU chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has been endorsed by the ANC Women’s League.

Deep divisions

However, in an earlier interview with News24, she refused to say who she would back.

"People must not be mischievous and say [that] national politics are informing where we are going in the Northern Cape. We have always remained objective on national level. I will not begin now to abuse the platform," Lucas said.

Lucas and Saul are fighting to replace former provincial strongman and chairperson John Block, who resigned after he was convicted of corruption.

A member of the provincial executive committee told News24 that the divisions are deep. About half of the PEC members signed a letter petitioning the national working committee to intervene.

They accused the NEC deployee to the province, Mcebisi Skwatsha, of failing to address the "crisis" in the province.

Secretary general Gwede Mantashe and his deputy Jessie Duarte visited the province last week. They are expected back in the province on Friday to continue their meetings.

Lucas has received the backing of the ANCWL leadership, while Saul is seen as a rising powerhouse in the province. Sources said he has ambitions of becoming premier.

"Why would he leave the secretary, which is a powerful position as it is the engine of the party for chairperson? He wants to be the premier of the Northern Cape," the source said.

Several sources have singled out Saul as the "architect of the systematic gatekeeping".

He has denied the allegations.

"I am not a branch secretary. I do not deal with membership, so I cannot be accused of gatekeeping," he said.

'We just want a fair process'

However, those rallying for Lucas to take over the reins in the province have insisted that the gatekeeping has happened and want the process started afresh.

One PEC member, who did not want to be identified, said the Francis Baard region's membership has been drastically reduced following final audits. The region has traditionally been the biggest in the province. The audits are crucial as they determine the number of delegates that can be taken to the elective conference.

"We just want a fair process. All people who are members in good standing for more than six months should be eligible to participate in the process, but many have been left out of the final audit. We don’t want a process that is hijacked and stolen," he said.

A former ANC Youth League member, Mojalefa Sethuntsha, said his branch in the region had been reduced from 300 to 150 members.

He accused municipal senior officials of using extended public works projects to buy voters ahead of the conference.

He said the fight started last year following list nomination processes.

"National promised to send representatives to all provinces to understand what happened with the decline of ANC in the provinces, but we never saw them," Sethuntsha said.

Another PEC member said so far there are 24 disputes from the Francis Baard region and 18 disputes in the John Taolo Gaetsewe district.

The regional executive committee endorsed Lucas, but that meeting saw a walkout by those supporting Saul.

ANC fighting ANC

Three other leaders from other regions said there have been parallel branch general meetings. Several ended in violence.

The ANCWL in the province refused to comment, but however confirmed that there were a number of complaints from branches that the PEC needed to deal with.

Sources said the mood in the province was tense and going ahead with the elective conference on March 8 could lead to more violence.

"I don’t know how we can go to conference if all these problems are unattended, otherwise we are actually standing a chance of ANC members fighting ANC members," Sethuntsha said.

Mantashe said those pushing for the conference to be postponed should engage with the ANC structures.

"They must co-operate with the processes attending to their complaints," Mantashe said.

Last week, Saul released a statement on behalf of the PEC calling on regional executive committees to take disciplinary action against members engaged in violence and called for the nomination process to be free and fair.

Saul has insisted that the conference will go ahead. He spoke to journalists following the state of the province address by Lucas.

"The provincial congress will not be postponed. We are meeting with the SG of the ANC and that meeting with the PEC will go ahead. This is not a high-level intervention by his office but rather his normal work," Saul said.

The Northern Cape is one of the ANC’s smallest provinces and has previously been seen as relatively stable prior to the 2016 local government elections.

Read more on:    anc  |  kimberley  |  anc leadership race  |  politics

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