- The Gauteng ANC conference is taking place in Benoni, Gauteng this weekend.
- ANC delegates from the province's five regions were divided on who should be elected chairperson of the province between Lebogang Maile and Panyaza Lesufi.
- ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe and David Makhura, the outgoing chairperson, pleaded against a focus on slates and warned delegates on the ANC's electoral fortunes.
Warning calls about the ANC's possible loss of Gauteng in 2024 did little to quash the intense battles at the ANC provincial conference about who, between Panyaza Lesufi and Lebogang Maile, would lead the province.
ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe and the provincial leader of the ANC in Gauteng, David Makhura, told branches at the conference on Friday that the warning signs of the ANC's departure from the helm of the country's economic hub were real.
At the conference in Benoni, attendees witnessed clear battle lines drawn on who, between Maile and Lesufi, should lead the province.
Both men were backed in song by delegates at the conference.
Maile is an ANC provincial executive committee member, while Lesufi serves as the province's deputy chairperson.
It was hard to distinguish through songs between "Adiwele" for Maile and "Panya Panya" for Lesufi, on which man was leading the race.
Makhura and Mantashe, while aware of how focused ANC conferences had leaned on leadership elections, weighed in heavily during speeches on winning back the trust of voters.
Mantashe told delegates that while they battled for who would win the leadership race, voters in the ANC's key areas had become disillusioned.
The declining trust in the party had become so dire that it had left supporters with no choice but to stay away from polls, Mantashe said.
Analysis of the 2021 municipal election results showed the ANC's traditional base supporters may have chosen to stay away from the polls.
Mantashe said the ANC in Gauteng would have a serious problem in 2024.
"Our support has declined dramatically. In all the three metros in Gauteng, we have fallen to below 40%, and it is quite an issue and a challenge we need to focus on. So, if the conference does not focus on that and it focuses on just elections, we must know that we are going to have a problem. But if it gives 10% to elections and the rest to the challenges facing the ANC, we will be better off, and we may recover in 2024.
Makhura echoed similar sentiments, but hit harder on what he viewed as a party at war with itself.
"The ANC has become a self-absorbed organisation, at war with itself, that focused on things that don't matter fundamentally. We must confront these fundamental issues; we must not lie to ourselves. We have disappointed people, our core support base of the ANC, people in our townships," Makhura said.
"We are going to 2024 not to hand over power, but to win back the people who did not vote in 2021. We want them to come back and vote ANC in 2024. We are dead serious about this."
Despite the emphasis by Makhura and Mantashe, delegates at the conference were primarily interested in slate dynamics.
Long choruses favouring either Maile or Lesufi dominated the conference floor as delegates stood on chairs, some grabbing the roaming microphones to cheer for their desired slates.
Caucus meetings were held on Thursday and Friday to discuss the number-crunching despite voting expected to occur on Saturday afternoon.
The Gauteng ANC conference was expected to conclude on Sunday. Late on Friday night, delegates were expected to adopt credentials, a topic which often provides for long debates and arguments about who was qualified to vote.
Maile and Lesufi have remained coy about reading their support base while they both described themselves as comrades.