Free State premier Ace Magashule looks set to retain his seat as ANC chairperson at this weekend's provincial conference, writes Michelle Pietersen.
This is amid claims that he conspired with Luthuli House to keep his position.
Magashule, a firm backer of President Jacob Zuma, was up against Mxolisi Dukwana, the former MEC for economic development, but Dukwana was fired by the premier in February during a reshuffle of the provincial legislature.
Dukwana said he would now boycott this weekend’s conference, along with his followers, clearing the way for Magashule to be re-elected unopposed. Dukwana’s camp say the outcome of the conference has been predetermined to ensure that Magashule wins.
The faction opposed to Magashule’s re-election accused his supporters and Luthuli House of applying unconstitutional tactics to ensure that Magashule wins. Dukwana’s supporters have also complained that the provincial conference is going ahead despite the fact that the province’s two biggest regions – Thabo Mofutsanyana and Moteo – did not convene their conferences. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe was accused of pushing through the audits of the two regions only on Thursday, a day before the conference was scheduled to begin. Mantashe denied this.
Mantashe sent a team of national executive committee members, led by Mining Minister Susan Shabangu and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, to the province earlier this year to intervene in the dispute.
Dukwana and his allies said the committee had abused its position and manipulated processes to ensure the election of a provincial leadership aligned to President Jacob Zuma and Mantashe.
Until now, the Free State has been balanced between those who support Zuma and those who agitate for change, but it appears it will now swing Zuma’s way.
Dukwana’s camp is adamant that this weekend’s conference cannot proceed, saying all the disputes have not been dealt with. It has also questioned who is funding the provincial conference because Dukwana never raised any funds.
Dukwana invited committee members “to conduct a forensic investigation on the manner in which the queries [about branch and regional audits] were handled”.
The Free State conference has already been delayed three times and a fierce tug-of-war over branches has ensued over the past three months. Shabangu’s team was tasked to intervene and resolve disputes, but it is said to have fuelled tension by “playing, instead of intervening”.
Dukwana said that Shabangu had instructed about 40 branches to reconvene their branch general conferences, despite having been given the green light to attend the conference.
Dukwana also accused Shabangu of failing to audit branches in the Lejweleputswa district, which had, on her instructions, reconvened its branch general meetings.
“In reconvening the branch general meetings, the NEC members brought attendance registers that excluded a significant number of eligible members, including branch executive committee members,” he said. “Radebe and Shabangu have chosen to take sides. They are focused on the national conference in December to make sure Zuma and Mantashe win. They are not interveners, but players. It is disturbing. All we ask of them is to do their work. We are not asking for any favours. They came here with Mangaung in mind,” said Saki Mofokeng, the former provincial leader who intended to contest the position of deputy chairperson.
The two camps in the province have accused each other of setting up parallel structures in the branches to ensure that their delegates are represented at the conference.
Dukwana said that in all the provincial regions, in particular the influential Mofutsanyana and Motheo, the audit reports as signed off by Mantashe were inconsistent with the original membership audit conducted by his office.
When the province announced on Wednesday that the conference would take place this weekend, Shabangu was said to have still been in the process of “listening” to branch complaints.
The Dukwana camp is also believed to have lost morale when one of its own, Sibongile Besani, allegedly switched sides on Wednesday, after meeting the Magashule camp. He is now said to be working with Magashule. Shabangu did not answer repeated calls made to her this week.
Mantashe said complaints from ANC members on behalf of a branch other than their own could not be taken seriously.
When asked whether he was satisfied that the party was ready to hold its provincial conference, he said: “I can’t say that to you. It’s not up to you to decide whether the conference can go ahead or not, it’s up to ANC’s NEC team.”
Meanwhile, in the North West, another errant ANC province, Mantashe held a meeting with the provincial leadership on Wednesday to discuss the bitter stand-off between two camps that has resulted in the provincial executive committee being rendered useless.
Speculation is rife that either the committee will be disbanded or the province will hold an early conference.
The meeting follows a provincial general conference held on Sunday, at which a decision was taken to remove provincial chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, provincial spokesperson Kenny Morolong and a committee member Matthew Wolmarans.
Mantashe has since deemed the decision “unconstitutional”.
Mahumapelo is a solid supporter of the ANC’s current leadership, whereas provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge has been rallying the province behind deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe’s bid to replace Zuma and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s bid to take over from Mantashe.
A provincial source said that during Sunday’s meeting, Mahumapelo and his allies had staged a walk-out when the leadership was under discussion. The decision to remove them was then taken in their absence.
This is the second time the province has attempted to remove a chairperson it views as being divisive in local politics. The first attempt to remove Mahumapelo was at a meeting of the province’s branches three weeks ago, at which a vote of no confidence against him was passed.
Luthuli House said the meeting was illegal and unconstituted.
Mahumapelo then wrote to Mantashe asking him to refer a complaint against Mataboge to the national disciplinary committee. Those aligned to the anti-Zuma faction in the province are of the view that it was in Mantashe’s interest to protect Mahumapelo.
On Wednesday, Mantashe said the meeting with the North West officials reaffirmed the provincial executive committee as elected last year.
A meeting between the national officials of the ANC and national executive committee deployees in North West has been scheduled for June 25 to craft intervention in the North West, Mantashe said.
Mahumapelo was hospitalised on Thursday, although it was unclear what the problem is.