Feuding Eastern Cape ANC leaders must smoke peace pipe - NEC

2018-03-26 21:45
Phumulo Masualle. (City Press)

Phumulo Masualle. (City Press)

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Eastern Cape ANC Chairperson Oscar Mabuyane and the Premier Phumulo Masualle will be forced to work together to avoid a rerun of last year's chaotic elective conference, dubbed the "festival of chairs".

This is the proposed political solution that came out of the weekend's national executive committee meeting, which secretary general Ace Magashule will take to the province and discuss with ANC members.

Sources who attended the NEC meeting in Cape Town said recommendations by Sbu Ndebele, for the provincial executive committee (PEC) to be disbanded and for the appointment of an interim structure, were largely rejected.

Ndebele was tasked with investigating irregularities from the 2017 elective conference, after Masualle lodged an appeal.

READ: ANC NWC rejects 'festival of chairs' conference report

"The NEC noted the report of the task team led by Comrade Sbu Ndebele, into matters relating to the 2017 Eastern Cape provincial conference. A process of engagement with the province to find a political solution will be initiated and led by the SGO (secretary general's office)," Magashule said in a statement after the meeting.

He confirmed during a post-NEC briefing that he would lead an engagement process in the province in the hope of finding a solution that deepens unity in the 106-year-old movement.

The conference, which was marred by violence as ANC members threw chairs at each other, saw Mabuyane take over Masualle's previous role in the ANC and take over the leadership of the province.

Sources have told News24 that the "political solution" will force the PEC to back down on its decision to recall Masualle as premier.

"The NEC said no to the PEC's appeal for Masualle to be fired. The feeling was that the province needed political healing," a source who attended the meeting said.

Masualle has, in turn, been ordered to work with the PEC.

He also has to convince his supporters to drop the Constitutional Court challenge against the elective conference.

READ: Eastern Cape ANC members want ConCourt to strike down results of 'festival of chairs' conference

Eleven disgruntled ANC members have petitioned the court to hear their appeal against a decision that allowed the chaotic conference to stand.

Magashule visited the province last week, after members of the party's national working committee (NWC) rejected Ndebele's recommendations, claiming the report was biased.

The secretary general, who insisted the report was not thrown out of the meeting, said "reports" would not help the party. Instead the answer was to put the interests of the liberation movement first and for there to be engagement between feuding parties.

"We are saying to all our structures, not only the Eastern Cape but KZN (KwaZulu-Natal), Limpopo, North West…generally all provinces we have been having challenges of people using the courts to try and resolve political issues. The NEC has taken a decision that we now have a national dispute committee. It's there in the constitution. We don't want people to go to the courts," said Magashule.

He added that it was not about positions.

"In that report, there are suggestions which are made on how to resolve this political issue in the Eastern Cape. One of them is to engage comrades, to try and make everybody understand that it's not about their own individual feelings, but the interests of the ANC and the need for them to renew and work together across the board," said the secretary general.

He said the ANC wanted to hear the different parties' views on the way forward.

The ANC has also decided on a special NEC meeting to deal with other troubled provinces plagued by deep divisions.

The weekend meeting could not agree on a proposal that provincial conferences be postponed until after the 2019 elections.

Two NEC members said a decision was taken, at the special NEC, to deal with the provinces on a case-by-case basis.

KZN and the Free State are due for an elective conference, after their conferences were annulled in court.

However, members in both conferences don't want the interim structures that are expected to oversee the process for fresh elections. Disgruntled members claim the interim structures are filled with members who led the province to unlawful conferences.

The provincial conferences are seen as part of a fight-back campaign to maintain power by those who lost the December elective conference.

Free State members want all branches in the province to be built anew.

"The current branch executive committees are in no state to facilitate both provincial conferences until these matters are fully attended to. It does not matter to us if this happens this year or next year, as long as proper processes in branches are followed up," Free State former treasurer Mxolisi Dukwana told News24.

In Limpopo, the conference was postponed amid infighting over credentials that determined who should attend the provincial elective conference.

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