What ANC conferences are showing about balance of forces

Durban – Regional and provincial conferences of the ANC ahead of the October 27 local government elections and the 2022 conference are starting to paint a picture of how the two major factions within the party are faring in their quest for dominance.

In the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and to a larger extent, in the Northern Cape, a clear pattern has come out.

An even better picture is expected to emerge at the end of the month after ANC acting secretary-general Jessie Duarte late last month wrote to structures saying all outstanding branches, regional and provincial conferences should be concluded by June 30 this year.

Duarte also said all branches (wards) should by then have nominated candidates for the October elections.

She stressed that even if a branch can shelve its internal branch elections, but the candidates for the elections should be concluded.

Over the weekend the Northern Cape held its elective conference and the faction led by the current chairperson and premier Zamani Saul swept the board.

As a sign that the province is still firmly behind the national leadership of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, the province invited him to speak.

Ramaphosa took the opportunity to take a swipe at the suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, saying although as members they have to close ranks, it should not be done at any cost.

That was seen as a swipe against Magashule and the radical economic transformation (RET) faction which is backing him.

Saul had nothing good to say about Magashule.

Before the conference was convened, party members who are believed to be pro-RET and Magashule wanted it stopped but the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg dismissed their application.

Apparently, Saul saw that as an attempt by the RET faction to kick him out of the office.

The ANC in the Eastern Cape said it would hold its elective provincial conference after its term comes to an end in September.

Spokesperson Loyiso Magqashela said the organisation was busy holding branch general meetings (BGMs) to elect leaders at the ward level.

Magqashela also said there was also the process of the nomination of candidate councillors for the local government elections to be held in October.

“Immediately we are done with the BGMs, the preparations for the provincial conference will kick in because you need to have structures on the ground,” he said.

He, however, said as part of preparations for the provincial conference, the regions would first hold their own conference.

“We also delayed their programme to focus on the nomination of candidates for municipal elections. Anything that has to do with regional conferences will not take place until after June 15.”

Despite this, all indications, for now, shows that the province is still firmly behind Ramaphosa despite that there are pockets of RET faction members like Andile Lungisa trying to mobilise on the ground.

Over the weekend, the provincial executive committee (PEC) led by provincial chairperson Oscar Mabuyane, invited former president Thabo Mbeki to address its extended meeting.

Mbeki has, since the election of Ramaphosa as ANC head, started to be once again active after lying low for almost a decade.

That is seen as a sign that he feels at ease with working with Ramaphosa than he was with the former party leader Jacob Zuma.

Addressing the gathering, Mbeki did not spare Magashule, though without naming him, saying it was bizarre that some leaders were defying instructions and even taking the party to court.

That was seen as a reference to the pending court challenge by Magashule who wants his suspension based on a step aside resolution to be repealed.

In KZN, provincial spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said 10 regions were due for conferences and the 11th region Harry Gwala, was due in August this year. The provincial conference would be held next year.

The balance of forces is not yet clear but three regions – Mzala Nxumalo, Far North and eMalahelni – which were previously behind Ramaphosa, had started fragmenting, with the slates that backed him in 2017 divided head of their regional conferences.

In the Free State, the RET faction is up against the CR17 faction and that was evident in the Mxolisi Dukwana (a Ramaphosa man) led interim provincial committee (IPC) in a post-meeting statement issued yesterday.

In an apparent reference to supporters of Magashule, Dukwana said: “The IPC further deeply reflected on the causes of disunity in the province and identified gatekeeping, careerism, personality cult, political intolerance as some of the tendencies that IPC must get rid of in its path to renew the organisation. Over the years different generations of ANC members contributed to some negative tendencies one way or another.”

Provinces with outstanding conferences include Mpumalanga where Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane will face Mandla Ndlovu; the Western Cape where the contest is not clear; Limpopo where Danny Msiza is expected to challenge Stan Mathabatha and the North West where the RET faction is neck on neck with the CR17 faction.


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