- The ANC in the Eastern Cape is holding its provincial conference in East London over the weekend.
- The congress was postponed twice and its start was largely delayed on Saturday as delegates struggled to be seated at the venue at the East London International Conference Centre.
- The province's leadership has decided to include the participation of branches with questionable status at the conference with a caveat.
Eastern Cape ANC branches with questionable membership numbers will be allowed to participate in the province's conference despite outstanding concerns about their status.
ANC Eastern Cape provincial coordinator Lulama Nqcukayitobi said the provincial leadership had decided to allow branches with questionable status to participate, but their votes would be set aside.
Two regions in the province, Dr WB Rubusana and Chris Hani, had several branches that had reported manipulated membership numbers.
There were some concerns about the participation of these branches and whether the issue would be discussed during the adoption of the credentials.
Nqcukayitobi said: "Rubusana has 40 branches participating fully, Chris Hani, 97 branches that will be participating. Some of the branches are eligible because of the ANC constitution".
ANC national executive committee member (NEC) Aaron Motsoaledi said the votes of questionable branches would be set aside and "quarantined".
The votes would be checked for whether they would affect the outcome of the provincial election.
"If there are issues with branches in ANC conferences and it is not clear how they will affect the conference, they are allowed to participate. Their votes get colour-coded, and their votes are put aside. We check whether their participation will materially change the conference either way," Motsoaledi said.
Several branches held last-minute meetings on Friday to meet the cut-off time to participate in the conference.
News24 understands that the inclusion of branches from Rubusana has led to threats of a court application being filed at the high court in East London.
Ngcelwane Attorneys, a law firm representing disgruntled ANC members from Rubusana, said a legal letter had been sent to the ANC regarding the participation of the branches in question.
The Dr WB Rubusana regional conference was successfully interdicted in early April over concerns about membership manipulation.
The congress will see former allies and firm favourites among present delegates, Babalo Madikizela and Oscar Mabuyane, challenge each other for the chairperson position.
Mabuyane is the Eastern Cape premier and Madikizela serves as Public Works MEC.
Mabuyane had served as the chairperson of the province since 2017, while Madikizela served as treasurer.
Both men had different slates backing their leadership race, and it remains unclear whether the winner would see their entire slate elected to office.
Mabuyane and Madikizela had previously publicly declared support for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was likely to seek a second term to lead the ANC at the party's national conference in December.
A delayed start and questionable members
The conference started about two hours late, but it was further delayed by delegates over the rules and processes of the conference.
Before official speeches started, Mabuyane called on delegates not to sing songs that could divide delegates according to the candidates they were supporting.
"We are done with that comrades. Let's unite this conference," he said.
Shortly after, concerns were raised about delegates outside the venue.
ANC NEC member Ronald Lamola said guests could be asked to leave the venue to free up space.
At one stage, Mabuyane, Lamola and other NEC members were seen discussing possible solutions while the crowd voiced their discontent.
Delegates continued going back and forth and raising issues.
A large group of delegates booed Mabuyane, and it seemed, at one point, that the leadership was under threat of losing control of proceedings.
The crowd calmed down when more space became available as some attendees were asked to sit on stage.
Meanwhile, outside the venue, a group of delegates linked to Madikizela's faction had delayed entering the conference.
A supporter of Madikizela's told News24 about "questionable delegates" who had been allowed to enter the venue.
They claim the conference room had been packed with Mabuyane supporters.
The group arrived late, cheering and singing in support of Madikizela, after they were briefed at a stadium venue by Teris Ntuntu, a contender for the provincial secretary position.