Mapisa-Nqakula fumes as conference held 'at ransom'

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Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: Deaan Vivier
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: Deaan Vivier

Senior ANC leader and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has lashed out at party members for holding a regional elective conference in the Eastern Cape at ransom, resulting in President Jacob Zuma leaving before he could address it.  

Mapisa-Nqakula, a member of the National Executive committee [NEC], the highest decision-making body of the ANC, was addressing about 350 delegates at the Amathole regional conference in Mpekweni Beach Resort near Port Alfred today where she criticised some party members for the delay.

Although it was scheduled to start on Friday, the highly contested conference only started this afternoon.

"I want all of us to ask ourselves why we are starting the conference on Sunday afternoon. The president was here. The president left to join the conference in Nelson Mandela Bay. He will probably come back and address us. But the issue for me is why are we starting our conference on Sunday afternoon when the conference should have started on Friday," Mapisa-Nqakula asked.

The ANC leader, who also serves on the party's National Working Committee, said the issue of credentials and disputes which delayed the conference should not be allowed to drag and that those who held the meeting to ransom should face consequences.

"If we delay to start a conference because of these dynamics I think we need to conduct an introspection on what we are about. We did not join the ANC because we are friends, we are brought together by the ANC and what it stands for. President Zuma would be here and I am just wondering after addressing us, will people have a moment to engage on those issues even as they go back to their branches," Mapisa-Nqakula said.

The ANC does not belong to anybody but it is a movement of the people and should not be held at ransom by individuals.

"This thing that we must sit here and do nothing the whole day because of some people who are busy with credentials and hold the whole conference at ransom I want the PEC to go back and discuss this matter and there must be penalties and consequences. We are sitting here and delegates are standing outside like sheep. Why should individuals hold us at ransom in this way as if we have nothing else to do. Disputes were finished yesterday around 5pm. By 4pm the president had landed here in the Eastern Cape coming to this conference. So the disputes are finished, the president has arrived but we are still sitting here eating peaches and drinking water as if we are puppets," said a visibly angry Mapisa-Nqakula, adding that she attended many conferences of the ANC but had never seen anything like what she witnessed at Amathole.

"I am just saying what happened here is bad. I have not missed a single national conference. I have been deployed to provincial conferences and I have run conferences. It is first time to see anything like this, that you have a regional conference standing still for three days. It's a first. The question is why. It has do with our positions in councils, because people want to know what they will benefit when they elect certain leaders into positions," she said.   

According to Mapisa-Nqakula, the ruling party would run into trouble in December at its national elective conference if it did not get its house in order. She cited the many splits the party has went through since 1994, when General Bantu Holomisa was dismissed and formed the United Democratic Movement, the breakaway of the Congress of the People in 2008 by Terror Lekota and the formation of the Economic Freedom Fighters by Julius Malema following his expulsion. She said the party could not afford to go to its provincial conferences, and ultimately the national conference, fragmented.

"My biggest concern is the [Eastern Cape] provincial conference [to be held in July]. We can't afford to go to the provincial conference disunited. We cannot let down Oliver Tambo. This is the year of OR Tambo who kept our movement united for 30 years. We operate believing there is no threat against the African National Congress.

"There is a threat against the ANC and it exists because we allow the ANC to keep on breaking away ... Juju formed the EFF. And whether we like it or not the EFF has become a thorn in the flesh. All these things they do of being disruptive, of insulting leadership talks to the fact that theirs is an organisation of ill-disciplined people," she said.   

The Amathole region is a contested terrain between two factions, one led by former PSL referee and general manager Ace Ncobo who is vying for the position of chairman. The other group is led by Thembalethu "Teris" Ntutu, current regional secretary who is seeking a third term in the same position. The conference is expected to continue until Monday.  

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