The ANC’s rules for nomination and election of national executive committee (NEC) members were released on Monday, in which the restriction on candidates eligible to run for office is likely to deepen political rifts within the divided governing party.
Earlier this year, ANC structures in Mpumalanga and eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal defied the party’s rule for criminally charged office bearers to step aside from active participation in the party’s affairs by electing implicated candidates into office.
The ANC subsequently amended the rules to tighten the loophole to exclude criminally charged contenders, and the new rules released this week reaffirm that position.
FIGHTING FOR THEIR POLITICAL LIFE
Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule had threatened that he would contest the elections if nominated, despite that he is facing corruption charges in court in relation to a multimillion-rand asbestos contract in the Free State during his stint as premier.
The ANC suspended Magashule in May last year after he refused to step aside until he was cleared, saying that the charges against him were political and intended to enable the party to sideline him from participation in its activities and future elections.
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Former health minister Zweli Mkhize, who was also lobbied by branches in his home province, KwaZulu-Natal, to contest President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid for a second term, has also been threatened with arrest over the unlawful Digital Vibes communications contract issued by his department to his friends when he was still in Cabinet.
ANC SUCCESSION RACE
The official publishing of the rules marks the last step towards the formal opening of the leadership succession race ahead of the upcoming national elective conference. The party’s provincial secretaries, interim provincial committee coordinators and leagues are expected to circulate the rules among members in structures throughout the country.
Those prohibited from contesting the elections include anyone who has been “found guilty of, or has been charged with, unethical or immoral conduct or any serious crime, or corruption”.
“A serious crime is defined by the electoral committee as a crime that could result in a prison sentence of longer than six months. A charge is defined as being charged in a court of law. This rule applies also to members who have been charged with any criminal offences in cases that are still being heard, or where a judgment or sentence is being appealed,” read the rules distributed by ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile.
In April, ANC branches elected murder-accused Mandla Msibi as Mpumalanga treasurer, while, weeks later, in eThekwini, the regional ANC elected corruption-accused former mayor Zandile Gumede as regional chairperson and her co-accused, Zoe Tshabalala, as regional treasurer.
In response, the next meeting of the NEC amended the step-aside rule to ensure that those affected by the policy could not contest elections, but it would not apply retrospectively. The move prompted ANC branches in KwaZulu-Natal to formally launch a lobby against the rule.
The lobby resonated with branches in Gauteng that had supported Human Settlements MEC Lebogang Maile in his contest for the ANC chairperson post against Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. While Lesufi won the contest, Maile’s group dominates the provincial executive committee elected this week and controls the provincial secretariat office.
In Limpopo, corruption-accused former ANC treasurer Danny Msiza had been a shoo-in to be elected provincial secretary, but his supporters withdrew his name following the NEC’s decision to amend the step-aside rule. However, Msiza remained the kingmaker in the subsequent conference and the slate supporting him won the elections with a big margin.
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Also excluded from leadership contests were members who had been found guilty by a disciplinary committee for contravening the ANC code of conduct and had their membership suspended for any period in the past 10 years. The rule also applied where a member was awaiting the outcome of a disciplinary hearing or an appeal.
“The rules above apply also to all members who are temporarily suspended pending the outcome of a court case or disciplinary hearing, and to members on whose cases the integrity committee has completed and submitted a report and recommendation of suspension of membership or stepping aside from leadership or public office.”
Former president Kgalema Motlanthe, who heads the ANC electoral committee, was tasked to ensure compliance with the rules.