High stakes game as ANC EC conference gets underway

With just hours before the conference in the Eastern Cape kicks off, question marks remain about the status of a verification report - a crucial step before the elective conference can go ahead.

Registration for the ANC Eastern Cape elective conference on 6 May 2022.

EASTERN CAPE - With just hours before the ANC’s ninth provincial conference in the Eastern Cape kicks off, question marks remain about the status of a verification report - a crucial step before the elective conference can go ahead.

On Friday evening another attempt to meet between deployees from the national executive committee (NEC) and the provincial task team (PTT) was postponed. Treasurer General Paul Mashatile, who is the acting secretary general, has yet to give the green light for the conference to sit.

This was the sixth PTT meeting in just over two days, where issues around the Dr WB Rubusana (Buffalo City) and Chris Hani (Komani and surrounds) regions lingered without a resolution on the horizon.

A total of 47 branches, representing over 100 delegates, were affected by allegations of manipulation of processes. These branches’ voting status remains at the heart of internal dispute as they could sway the conference in either direction.

Those branches have mostly linked to Oscar Mabuyane who's making a bid to return to the helm of the party in the province.

The Eastern Cape premier and his lobbyists at both provincial and national level have been pushing to have the affected branches condoned when voting eventually takes place.

However, his one-time all now turned opponent, Babalo Madikizela and his supporters want the affected branches to be quarantined.

The ANC’s national dispute resolution committee has had its hands full with the issue - even calling for a last-minute re-run of branch general meetings (BGMs) on Friday as delegates from other regions were already busy with registration for the provincial conference in East London.

The committee declared that it would deal with disputes until midnight on Friday after which it would no longer consider the endless appeals being brought up. The ANC had also ruled that the BGMs should stop at midday however Eyewitness News understands some branches continued to meet well into the evening.

OUTSTANDING DISPUTES

Some have questioned the possibility of the province hosting a smooth conference given the outstanding disputes. Controversial figure Teris Ntutu, who is contesting the position of provincial secretary on Madikizela’s slate, has described the going on around the conference as “organised chaos”.

Ntutu, who is the Amathole regional secretary, stepped aside in February following the reinstatement of corruption charges linked to a R10 million black plastic bags tender in the Mnquma Municipality. But he was reinstated and given permission to fully participate in the conference by Mashatile this week, after the charges against him were struck off the court roll.

His participation bolsters Madikizela’s campaign.

In a sit-down interview with Eyewitness News, Ntutu raised concerns over the role of senior leaders at the conference, saying they had put their personal interests ahead of ANC processes and the party’s branches.

Madikizela had been seen as a firm favourite, but party insiders say numbers have been fluctuating, with some arguing that it's now neck and neck in a two horse-race between the two close allies.

Eyewitness News also understands an attempt by four of the ANC’s top officials to mediate between Madikizela and Mabuyane have all but failed.

There has also been some concern that this year’s internal contest will see a repeat of the 2017 “Festival of Chairs”, where a violent confrontation ensued with chairs flying at the conference venue as delegates on opposite ends attacked each other.

Others believe credentials might be where this conference collapses, with those aligned to Mabuyane already suggesting that there are attempts to ensure the gathering does not go beyond the credentials debate.

Ntutu predicts this conference will get through credentials but says it’s all dependent on how leaders conduct themselves and the business of the conference.

“We need to spend time on credentials unfortunately, scrutinise everything, correct everything, even if its 5 hours or ten hours because once you accept credentials in a rush-rush kind of a situation, you go and win and someone else challenges the same conference and in court you are able to say no, we discussed this matter,” argues Ntutu.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

It’s a high stakes game for the Eastern Cape which has reclaimed its position as the ANC’s second largest province. Support from the province has previously bolstered the campaigns of senior leaders, including ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa in his 2017 victory.

Several leaders, with their roots in the province are also said to be once again looking to this conference to secure support ahead of the December national conference.

“We understand the palpitations showing up in a lot of corners and everyone now thinks you can still find something, we know Eastern Cape has been treated like this for a very long time. We have been taken for a ride, we have been taken for granted that if people are interested in leading ANC national, they must come here in the Eastern Cape and find whatever little piece they can have,” complained Mabuyane during a media briefing.

Some, linked to Madikizela have expressed views that the time had come to usher in younger leadership in the ANC, saying the party’s succession plan does not lie with the seniors.

There are also those looking at Mabuyane, calculating that this conference will serve as an important stepping stone for his political career.