Songs that shaped the struggle reverberated in Johannesburg’s plush suburb of Houghton on Thursday, as the ANC’s John Nkadimeng branch nominated its candidates for the party’s elective conference.
In what was a rare occurrence, members of the branch came out in numbers to have their say.
They arrived earlier than the scheduled 19:00 start and were in good spirits, despite members of the regional executive committee arriving over an hour late.
Support was split between presidential frontrunners Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. It was Ramaphosa who would prevail based on votes by show of hand.
Former President Kgalema Motlanthe and his wife Gugu where among the members in good standing who arrived to participate in this crucial process that includes deciding on the composition of voting delegates at the ANC’s crucial elective conference in December.
Motlanthe is one of many prominent ANC leaders who are members of the John Nkadimeng branch. He was the only one who sat throughout the entire process under the watchful eye of his bodyguards.
Former SA Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni arrived only to sign the register and then left. ANC veteran and poet Wally Serote sent an apology, saying he could not attend due to ill health.
Members of the Mandela family were conspicuous by their absence.
Each person who walked into the Houghton Primary School’s hall was stopped at the door to have their names checked against a register, to confirm they were in fact branch members.
Those who were not on that list, audited and approved by party headquarters Luthuli House, were not considered members in good standing. They were still allowed access, but were not allowed to participate in the election of branch leaders, and only allowed to act as observers.
Meetings to decide on new leadership
John Nkadimeng is one of the party’s 4 723 branches which held meetings to decide on a new leadership collective and President Jacob Zuma’s successor. Branch members make up two-thirds of the ANC’s conference delegates.
A hearty rendition of “Asinavalo” signalled it was time to hand over the process of credentials to regional deployees, for them to oversee the election of a new branch executive committee (BEC) and to conduct nominations for the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC).
They had their hands full with the credentials process. It is required to ensure that the branch meeting is properly constituted and that at least 50% plus one of the branch’s members are present.
Although some left the venue long before the process was completed, the meeting was able to form a quorum with 53 signatures out of a total of 103 audited members.
The credentials were highly contested but, ultimately, everyone agreed.
There was a proposal from one of the members for everyone to leave the room so that their names could again be checked against the audited list. The majority rejected this, saying it would cause an unnecessary delay.
Some members tried to convince the rest that those who came to sign the register and left should not be considered part of the meeting. This too was rejected.
Stanley Letsoalo was elected BEC chairperson. The leadership was uncontested.
The branch’s youth league had been vocal about wanting young people to occupy influential positions in the party and the BEC’s composition reflected its wishes.
Motlanthe had previously expressed support for this view and warned against the “recycling” of leaders in the ANC, including himself. The party needed young blood, he had said.
He turned his words into deeds when he rejected attempts to nominate him as a candidate to replace Zuma.
However, members rejoiced when Motlanthe accepted a nomination to be a member of the ANC’s NEC.
Letsoalo said he was not available for nomination to the ANC’s presidency. He would be the only delegate who would represent the branch at the national conference.
Members of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and ANC Womens’ League in the branch were the first to nominate Dlamini-Zuma. They lost the fight. A tally of votes by show of hand placed Ramaphosa ahead by seven votes. The Motlanthes voted with the majority.
Attempts to have Dlamini-Zuma nominated for the post of deputy president were unsuccessful as well. The majority favoured Lindiwe Sisulu, another presidential contender.
In nominating leaders to the NEC, the branch favoured its own members and proposed outgoing chairperson Khotso Khasu, Mboweni, and SABC board member Khanyisile Kweyama.
Former ANCYL leaders Malusi Gigaba, Abner Mosaase, ANC spokesperson Khusela Diko, Ronald Lamola and Kenny Morolong were added to the list.
The meeting ended amicably with the shaking of hands, jokes and members taking pictures with Motlanthe, the man they still fondly call president.