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ANC Mangaung conference begins

The 53rd ANC Elective Conference has officially commenced in Mangaung.

ANC President Jacob Zuma at the parties elective conference in Mangaung on 16 December 2012. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

MANGAUNG - ANC delegates are now seated inside the tent where President Jacob Zuma is addressing delegates with his political report.

Zuma began his report in song and urged one and all to stand and sing along as he praised Former president Nelson Mandela's words that "everyone will one day come together for freedom."

The conference started with the official interfaith prayer rendered by various religious leaders.

National Chairperson of the ANC, Baleka Mbete then addressed delegates on the programme of events and basic rules and regulations.

Delegates are in high spirits as Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa noted as she walked in the marquee.

"Our long preparation is coming to fruition. I think we are all excited. We are going to bring out good policies and implementation as well."

With only 40 air conditioners, the heat is taking its toll on some delegates while the energy levels of the others seemed unperturbed.

President Jacob Zuma will address delegates, guests and media with his political report.

DELAYED START

The conference, which was supposed to have commenced at 8:30, was delayed by four hours.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said, "We are likely to have the political report of the president later. There are still other things like the opening of the conference and a prayer service."

Zuma received a warm welcome when he walked to his seat on stage compared to the one received by former president Thabo Mbeki during the 2007 Polokwane conference.

The president knows he is in a relevantly comfortable position, with a majority of ANC provinces backing him.

But the ANC leader knows there is still an election that needs to be fought and won.

Zuma has several political problems to deal with, including Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's acceptance of a nomination for him to take over the top job.

He also needs to figure out how to solve problems in the North West ANC.

Outside the hall, there is an air of expectation at the University of the Free State.

The chairs in the hall are lined up, microphone feeds have been tested and delegates are walking into the tented area.

CLEAR DIVISIONS

The two opposing groups emerged clearly at the conference on Sunday morning.

One group called for change in the ANC, while the other sang Zuma's praises.

With ANC flags in hand, pro-Zuma supporters symbolically held two fingers in the air while singing, signaling their desire for the president to run for a second term.

One delegate said, "I come from the Western Cape and I am here for the National Executive Committee [vote]. I am looking forward to today."

"I am from KwaZulu-Natal and I am here to vote for President Jacob Zuma," another said.