Mangaung conference delayed

The ANC’s conference in Mangaung will be delayed by at least an hour on Sunday.

Entrance to the ANC Conference in Mangaung on 16 December 2012. Picture:Aletta Gardener/EWN

MANGAUNG - President Jacob Zuma will kick start the much anticipated 53rd ANC national elective conference in Mangaung on Sunday morning with his political report.

But the conference has been delayed by at least an hour.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu says they are running behind schedule.

"We are likely to have the political report of the president at around 11.30am. There are still other things like the opening of the conference and [a] prayer [service]."

Zuma has almost every right to expect a warm welcome, 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.

Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and business mogul Patrice Motsepe were spotted in the crowds.

Motsepe reportedly paid R50,000 for a seat next to Zuma at the business gala on Saturday evening.

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.

'UNFAIR PORTRAYALS'

Speaking at the Progressive Business Forum (PBF) gala dinner in Mangaung on Saturday evening, Zuma said the ruling party is being unfairly portrayed as corrupt.

Several high-profile Cabinet members and prominent business people attended the event.

Zuma used the opportunity to reaffirm the ANC's commitment to fight corruption.

"We are being branded as the most corrupt organisation and yet, we are leading that charge. We are actually exposing corruption.

"We are very committed [to fighting corruption]. The more we are criticised the more we are encouraged to fight it even harder."

Zuma said Motlanthe's decision to accept a nomination for the party's top job is healthy for the party and democracy.

He said the nomination of leaders to contest positions in the party's top six does not mean that there is something wrong.

"Comrades have been nominated and [they] accepted. People think there is something wrong. It is democracy - there is nothing wrong."

According to Zuma, branch delegates at the conference will have the final say about who is elected.

He also praised the ANC's democracy, saying contestation for leadership started at its very first conference.