Governing party caught off guard by bitter members countrywide who are threatening chaos
President Jacob Zuma has sought to quell unprecedented protests over the ANC’s candidates’ list by calling for discipline among members.
However, while addressing thousands of supporters at the FNB Stadium in Soweto yesterday, Zuma tried to downplay the public shambles by saying the clashes showed “democracy at work”.
Chaos erupted earlier this week particularly in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and North West, where some popular ANC members registered as independent candidates – which could see these members campaigning against the party.
The ANC had anticipated that, following the conclusion of its national list conference last week, contests for positions would subside and members would turn their focus towards an election victory.
But thousands of angry ANC members this week took their frustrations to the doors of Luthuli House, while in KwaZulu-Natal violence continued unabated after three ANC leaders were gunned down.
Post the 2011 municipal elections, a probe by African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma revealed that up to 125 ANC councillors had been fraudulently nominated, resulting in by-elections in cases where her report’s recommendations were implemented.
The Dlamini-Zuma commission was supposed to identify and rectify problems in the councillor-selection process so that they could be avoided in 2016.
In some areas, members of the SA Communist Party (SACP) have threatened to withdraw from election campaigns in areas where candidates have been “imposed” on communities.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe was startled this week, as it emerged that “The Communist Party” was contesting elections in five municipalities in the Eastern Cape – raising concerns that the people involved could be SACP members. The SACP, however, has distanced itself from this.
An alliance insider told City Press this week they expected the situation to worsen since the final list of names had already been submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
“Since they would not be able to stand as independents, because the process is closed, people will cause havoc. They will protest and boycott elections,” he said.
Mantashe said they were seeing the “strange development” of people who were willing to go to war to become a councillor.
How five provinces are affected by the conflict:
The SACP’s Durban region, where supporters of provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala’s slate at last November’s provincial conference have been well rewarded on the list, this week threatened to abandon the ANC campaign over what it called “fraudulent” candidates being imposed on ANC branches.
The list process in eThekwini has been a hotly contested one, with branches taking to the streets over candidates they chose being dumped by the provincial leadership and taken off the list.
As many as 10 would-be ANC candidates, many of them supporters of now-deposed premier Senzo Mchunu, have ¬indicated they will stand as independents come August 3.
The eThekwini list is dominated by backers of Zikalala, ¬including mayoral candidate and regional ANC chairperson Zandile Gumede.
“There has been a clean-out of James [mayor James Nxumalo] supporters,” said one ANC councillor who made the list. “They are not coming back.” The source said the ANC list for the metro contained 36 new names.
The SACP also wanted a proper investigation into the fresh wave of political killings, which this week heightened ¬tensions, saying the “masters” behind three apparent assassinations needed to be unmasked.
On Thursday, Nathi Hlongwa, an ANC branch chairperson from Edendale outside Pietermaritzburg, was shot and killed on his way home from an ANC meeting. Two days before, Mooi-Mpofana municipality chief financial officer Simo Mncwabe – who had resigned from his post the day before after receiving death threats – was gunned down.
Both Mncwabe and Hlongwa were members of the same ANC branch in Ward 12. On Monday, another ANC member, Dumisani Makhathini, who was a local-level SACP leader, had been shot and killed at Inchanga, where Nxumalo lives.
Even as the clock struck 5pm on Thursday, disgruntled ANC members stayed put outside Luthuli House and members of the SA Police Service tactical response team stood ready on either side of the crowd.
A Katlehong resident in Gauteng told City Press they had come to Luthuli House “to defend our revolution”.
“We might die for this, but it is okay because we will have died for the ANC, which we love,” said Thoko Xaba (64), a resident of Katlehong’s Ward 60.
Xaba and a group of her companions said their grievances had been unfairly dismissed by the Ekurhuleni and Gauteng ANC leaders. “We want the ANC to solve our problems before we go to elections, because, as things stand, there is no IEC that will come and set up voting stations here; we won’t allow that,” said an adamant Xaba.
Some of the angry members had made their way into the foyer of Luthuli House, where police stood watch.
Residents of the hotly contested Tshwane and Katlehong areas showed City Press a series of letters urging the region and province to intervene and attend to their grievances.
The Eastern Cape ANC was this week livid after one of its councillors in a strategic ward at the hotly contested Nelson Mandela metro registered as an independent candidate.
Mbongeni Bungane, a veteran councillor of Ward 41, one of the biggest in the Port Elizabeth metro, will contest as an independent candidate against his former party.
This forced the hand of the governing party, which had promised to fire such people. It sent in national executive committee members such as deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and spokesperson Zizi Kodwa this weekend.
Mlibo Qoboshiyane, the provincial spokesperson, ¬confirmed to City Press on Friday that the party was aware of Bungane’s decision to register officially as an independent candidate.
“This is what we call a silly season. We understand that people are now testing their choices and options. But we are not going to be deterred by those things,” he said.
On Tuesday, angry protesters unhappy that their preferred candidates were excluded from the councillors’ list blocked buses from leaving party headquarters in Port Elizabeth to East London, where candidates were to be vetted before their names could be submitted to the IEC.
On Friday, the Western Cape ANC postponed the provincial launch of its manifesto, which was scheduled for today and was going to be addressed by party deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Provincial spokesperson Jabu Mfusi told City Press the province’s top officials took the decision to postpone on ¬Friday morning, as some of the ANC members continued to protest outside the provincial headquarters in Cape Town.
Mfusi said the party could not go ahead with a manifesto launch when a number of branches were still aggrieved about the list process.
“We can’t launch a manifesto when our members are wounded. Let’s first address our structures. We will go to all the aggrieved branches and regions and explain the list process, and only then will we launch a manifesto,” said Mfusi.
On Thursday, the police had to be called as ANC members held the deputy provincial secretary and a senior staff member “hostage” in their offices.
Acting chairperson of the Western Cape ANC Khaya Magaxa explained that their new approach, which includes public participation in determining councillor candidates, was at the root of the protests.
“Those public meetings determine the direction. That is new to us and that is why the number of protests is higher this time around,” said Magaxa.
Among the most troubled ANC provinces during the ¬candidate-selection process is the ANC in North West. It also saw members this week storming its headquarters in ¬Gertrude Mphekwa House in Mahikeng.
On Friday, those linked to the ANC’s election team in North West’s Bojanala region circulated a list showing that at least 10 current ANC councillors had registered to contest elections under the banner of the new “Forum 4 Service Delivery”.
“The party has been formed by current members of the ANC and others are deployed as ANC councillors both ward and PR [proportional representation],” read the circulated SMS that City Press received.
Those implicated in the SMS told City Press they had lodged a complaint with the IEC to establish “how their list ended up in the hands of people in the ANC”.