The ANC's 'poo two' were reinstated to forestall any bid to take their popular support to another party.
As elections pressure mounts and the opposition flirts with some ANC Western Cape members, Luthuli House apparently instructed the party's provincial leaders to reinstate the so-called "poo protesters" for fear of defections and a loss of support.
This is contrary to the official spin given this week that former ANC City of Cape Town councillors Loyiso Nkohla and Andile Lili had won back their membership after appealing a flawed disciplinary process.
Several sources, including Nkohla, said the ANC's national working committee (NWC) had put pressure on the party's provincial leadership to ensure that the pair, who enjoy wide support in informal settlements, campaigned for the ANC.
"It's an instruction that came from the NWC … They said we don't agree with you charging people who are putting pressure on [Western Cape premier Helen Zille] when you can't do anything about Zille," said a senior ANC leader in the province.
The source said the provincial leaders were given their instructions on March 10 and, four days later, provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile and Cape Metro regional secretary JJ Tyhalisisu met the two former councillors.
The source said that, although the provincial leaders were reluctant to do so, an election team led by Public Enterprise Minister Malusi Gigaba had exerted more pressure on their provincial counterparts. Gigaba would not comment, referring questions to the provincial ANC.
Nkohla confirmed that Mjongile and Tyhalisisu had met them on March 14, and told them there was an instruction from the committee to bring them back into the party.
Nkohla said that the provincial leaders had at first suggested that the pair work with the ANC while their expulsion remained in place, but they rejected this request.
The ANC leaders returned later with an offer to lift the expulsion, but the parties couldn't agree on a number of issues, said Nkohla.
A third meeting was scheduled for March 31.
Nkohla said they were surprised this week to hear in the media that their expulsion had been lifted.
"I was sitting in court when a journalist received an SMS about a press conference. She asked me if I would be attending. I didn't even know about the matter," he said.
ANC national spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said he was not aware of any interference from the national office.
"Our disciplinary processes are thorough. It was ANC processes at play here," he said.
Mjongile also rejected claims that they were pressured into the reinstatement, maintaining that the pair were reinstated only after winning their appeal.
"Theirs was a textbook case of flawed disciplinary procedures. We looked at the issues that they presented, and made our decision."
Rights movement founder
While suspended from the ANC, Lili and Nkohla started the Ses'khona People's Rights Movement, drawing support from across Cape Town's black townships and informal settlements.
Said provincial treasurer Fezile Calana: "Whether there was pressure or no pressure is irrelevant, because we had to respond to their appeal 21 days after they submitted it. And it remains that there were flaws in the disciplinary process."
In October, the councillors led a huge march to the Western Cape provincial legislature, which turned violent and resulted in the looting of shops and stalls.
A provincial leader, who did not want to be named, said the ANC's national leadership was worried about the pair's influence in informal settlements, one of the ANC's key constituencies in the province.
The party's concerns came to a head when only three people turned out to vote at one of the districts in Ward 35 in Philippi, Cape Town, during the February 19 by-election.
The voting district is in an informal settlement where ANC and tripartite alliance leaders had been chased out of the area on several occasions during the election campaign. Faeces was also flung at an ANC elections truck in this area in February.
Nkohla said that he was approached by the Economic Freedom Fighters, who offered to make him a candidate for Western Cape premier, an offer he rejected.
Though the EFF's Andile Mngxitama confirmed approaching Nkohla and Lili to join the EFF, he denied offering Nkohla the premier candidacy. "He is deluded," he said. "They said we don't agree with you charging people who are putting pressure on [premier Helen Zille] when you can't do anything about Zille"