The party's integrity committee is taking a tough stance on unsuitable candidates in its election lists.
President Jacob Zuma could be investigated by the ANC's integrity committee should he be found to have benefited from the multimillion-rand Nkandla security upgrades.
The party's watchdog body, consisting of 12 elders, is also investigating some shady characters on the ANC's list of prospective MPs released this week. Senior party leaders told the Mail & Guardian that they are unhappy about the inclusion of these candidates.
One provincial leader said the ANC would have to "ask tough questions" if public protector Thuli Madonsela finds that Zuma, whose name tops the party list, is directly implicated in the Nkandla saga.
"We have no choice but to ask ourselves as an organisation what implications such a decision will have on the organisation," the leader, who asked not to be named, said. "We cannot ignore and avoid asking such tough questions."
Madonsela will release the Nkandla report on Wednesday.
'Not a court of law'
Asked what the committee would do if Zuma was found to have benefited inappropriately in the Nkandlagate saga, its chairperson, Andrew Mlangeni, said: "The public protector is not a court of law. She is appointed by government. She can investigate anybody.
"We also have that authority. We can summon the president or the secretary general of the ANC. We can't act on the basis of Madonsela's investigation. We have to investigate [Zuma] ourselves. If she finds him guilty, we will make our own investigation."
Another ANC leader said there is a feeling that the inclusion of disgraced former Gauteng MEC Humphrey Mmemezi on the ANC's list undermines the provincial legislature, which forced him to resign following allegations of corruption.
This was confirmed by the provincial source, who said: "People are angry and asking whether there's any trace of consistency."
Mmemezi said he was targeted by a faction in Gauteng that did not support the re-election of Zuma as ANC president.
Mlangeni said his committee is scheduled to meet on Saturday to scrutinise the list, which was submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission this week.
But ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said that the party is confident its candidate lists can stand up to scrutiny.
"If the IEC were to remove anyone, it will leave us with egg on the face. We cannot face that," he said. "We did verification of whether the people qualify for candidacy. We went through the lists with a [fine-tooth] comb."
Mthembu said the ANC would be able to defend its candidates should there be any objections.
Reacting to ANC members' dissatisfaction about the inclusion of dubious candidates, Mthembu said the candidates had not been found guilty by a court of law and were voted in by a majority of ANC branches.
"When the list process has been concluded, you can't come and say you're unhappy. You'll be negating the internal processes that have been going on for almost a year."
But Mlangeni disclosed that his committee is separately investigating former communications minister Dina Pule, who is number 70 on the ANC's National Assembly candidate list. He said the committee is also investigating ANC national executive committee members Tony Yengeni and Miriam Segabutla for bringing the party into disrepute, although they do not appear on the ANC's candidate lists.
Pule was sacked after it was found that she used her office to benefit her boyfriend improperly in a R6-million telecommunications indaba contract. She could not be reached for comment.
Disgraced communications minister Dina Pule. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)
Segabutla, a former Limpopo health MEC, was arrested in March last year on charges of fraud and corruption involving tenders worth R16?million. The ANC asked her to step aside from leadership positions.
Yengeni, who served a prison term for a case relating to the arms deal, was arrested for drunken driving for the second time in Cape Town last year.
Mlangeni said the ANC does not approve of Yengeni's conduct.
"His repeated arrests on drunken driving – we don't approve of such things. We don't want a bad impression to be created that the ANC approves of these things. People regard him as a role model. He must lead by example."
Mlangeni said the integrity committee has "already interrogated" the trio. "But we have not concluded our investigation as yet … We will give a report to the NEC [national executive committee] when we are done," he said.
Approached for comment, Yengeni said: "We have no reaction. I am still undergoing a case that has not been resolved."
Asked about the integrity committee's investigation, he said: "I can't confirm or deny [it]. I am not going to respond to that because my case has not been resolved."
The presence of disgraced ANC leaders on the lists raises questions about how serious the party is to rid itself of misbehaving candidates.
They include Mmemezi; criminal suspects and former youth league leaders Pule Mabe and Andile Lungisa; Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who was found guilty of maladministration and improper and unethical conduct by Madonsela for awarding a tender irregularly; and Northern Cape ANC leader and fraud accused John Block.
ANC MP Ben Turok also expressed disappointment at the inclusion of candidates found guilty by the parliamentary ethics committee he chaired, as well as those accused of corruption and facing criminal charges.
"We do need to protect the integrity of Parliament and we expect members to behave in an ethical manner," he said, adding that there is "a culture in the ANC that you cure the illness to save the patient".
Turok said the parliamentary ethics committee this week passed a new code of conduct with "more severe penalties" than before in an effort to deter would-be transgressors.
But the challenge is that, once the ethics committee has penalised an MP and, as in Pule's case, referred the matter to the police, it's up to the party to decide what should happen to the member.
"I would hope that the ANC's integrity committee considers these matters carefully and decides whether such a person is suitable to represent the party in Parliament.
"It's not the judgment for the secretary general alone; it's for the integrity committee to decide and recommend to the entire ANC leadership," Turok said.
An ANC NEC member said the party would most probably urge its candidates who are found to be unsuitable to hold public office to resign from the IEC lists.
He said the process of vetting candidates with a detailed questionnaire, which the M&G reported on last week, is not yet complete, leaving the ANC in a difficult position.
IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said that political parties could remove candidates from the lists if there was an objection and the commission made a ruling that supported the objection.
"If the party concerned is not happy with the commission's ruling, they can approach the electoral court," she said.
Members of the public and political parties have until April 1 to object to any candidate on the lists already submitted to the IEC.