- President Cyril Ramaphosa used his closing address at the ANC Free State elective conference to lambast the province's previous leadership for not putting communities' needs ahead of their personal interests.
- He said the newly elected leadership would prioritise the needs of the province's citizens.
- Ramaphosa's ally, Mxolisi Dukwana, was elected as the province's chairperson after defeating Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela.
In a seemingly veiled swipe at his political rival, Ace Magashule, President Cyril Ramaphosa described the newly elected ANC Free State leadership as a vast improvement.
Ramaphosa didn't mince his words when he delivered the closing address at the province's elective conference on Sunday evening, taking several veiled swipes at Magashule, the party's former Free State chairperson and secretary-general.
Although he didn't mention Magashule or his ally, Sam Mashinini, by name, Ramaphosa said the previous leadership was a far cry from what the province's citizenry needed.
Magashule served as ANC Free State chairperson for two decades. Mashinini was elected to replace him, although the election was successfully challenged in court.
Ramaphosa said the new leadership, headed by Mxolisi Dukwana, would better serve the province's residents. Dukwana is a staunch Ramaphosa backer.
"Here you have chosen leaders who are committed to renewing the ANC. I do not doubt that the confidence that you have invested in them was well placed, and they will not disappoint you in that they will take the ANC renewal project forward.
"I do thank you, and I do think that your conference is a watershed moment; it's a milestone moment. It differs from the conferences that we have held recently in this province. I know that you are aware of what I am referring to," he said to a round of applause.
He also cautioned that people in the Free State were looking to the leadership to bring about positive change in the ailing province.
Just arrived in Bloemfontein, Free State to deliver the Closing Address at the 9th Provincial Conference taking place under the theme: The Year of Decisive Action to Advance the People’s Interests and Renew our Movement.#ANCFreeState pic.twitter.com/fsrHVWxlHS— Cyril Ramaphosa ???? (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 22, 2023
"You see, the Free State, being the centre of the country, should play a key role, and now it's the time for the province to play that key role," Ramaphosa said.
He added that the days when leaders in the province merely took up positions to enrich themselves should be a thing of the past.
"I have been informed that there is a municipality that is being run by what is called a top six who facilitate who receive tenders to their own benefit and not the best interests of the people. That culture needs to come to an end," the ANC president said.
He thanked delegates for remaining resolute that they would see the conference through, despite efforts to derail it.
"I want to thank you that you were able to host this conference when at one stage, it seemed like this conference would not happen and would collapse or be collapsed.
"You refused to have the conference collapsed. I want to thank you for your commitment and your resoluteness and your determination that this conference must happen."
Ramaphosa brushed off questions about discrepancies in the number of delegates who voted.
"I was watching proceedings on television and saw that some were questioning why, during the adoption of conference credentials, the number communicated to delegates as voting delegates was 650 but when elections took place 657 people were allowed to vote. Then those who are aggrieved threaten court actions over seven votes.
"What madness is this that some would always run to court over a mere seven votes," Ramaphosa said.
Again, seemingly taking a swipe at Magashule, he added that the hosting of such a conference with commendable outcomes was last seen in 2004.
"This is what I would describe as a watershed conference; we last had such a conference as far back as 2004."
Since 2003, the province has held three conferences - 2008, 2013, and 2018. Magashule won the first two of those and his ally Mashinini won the last in 2018, only for its outcome to be challenged in court and for the leadership to be dissolved.
The other two terms under Magashule were also challenged, leading to a situation in which the provincial leadership was not able to attend the party's national elective conference as a provincial executive. It was deemed that their participation could compromise the legitimacy of the conference.
The emboldened Ramaphosa made the utterances after his allies made a clean sweep, winning all five of the top provincial leadership positions.
Dukwana, who has been the convener of the temporary structure appointed in 2021 after the leadership elected in 2018 was found to have been wrongfully constituted, defeated Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela by 33 votes.
Dukwana went to the state capture commission and alleged that under Magashule, he was persecuted for blowing the whistle on irregular transactions that were being facilitated by provincial departments.
The ANC in the province announced the list of additional provincial executive committee (PEC) members on Monday morning, with the slate that was defeated by the one aligned to Dukwana facing further embarrassment.
Ntombela, was again the biggest loser as she failed to make it to the additional PEC members' list.