Polokwane will be a busy town come December with an expected 4Ã‚Â 500 delegates, both voting and non-voting, attending the African National Congress’s (ANC) 52nd national conference.
A further 200 delegates comprise observers from the South African Communist Party, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African National Civics Organisation, and yet another 200 are from various other organisations and international and local guests. ANC staff, service providers, security and members of the media make up a further 800 attendees.
The reservations desk at the Southern Sun Garden Court hotel in Polokwane told the Mail & Guardian Online on Thursday that all the hotel’s rooms were booked out already for December. Nkhseli Nkopo said: ”I booked the last room this morning. There were 179 rooms available and all have been now taken. Media have taken most of the rooms with only a few delegates staying here.”
Polokwane mayor Thabo Makunyane said: ”We as a governmental institution is not involved in the conference. But we can as a municipality ensure that the infrastructure is up to scratch. We need to watch out for the danger of congestion and make sure that this problem and others do not arise.
”All the peripheral arrangements will be sorted by us to ensure all goes smoothly. We as a municipality is very excited that it will be taking place here.”
Smuts Ngonyama, head of the presidency of the ANC, on Thursday updated members of the press in Johannesburg on preparations for the conference, to be held from December 16 to 20.
Ngonyama called the conference an ”important milestone of the ANC”. He insisted that the conference is not about ”the election of the six senior members of the ANC, but rather about debating the future of the ANC and about what we do to change the lives of the people”.
A total of 3Ã‚Â 675 voting delegates, from the nine provinces, will converge on Polokwane, along with an additional 400 delegates, also with voting rights, from the ANC Youth League, the Women’s League, the national executive committee (NEC) and the provincial executive committees, said Ngonyama.
He reiterated that the number of voting members is proportional to the number of provinces with paid-up memberships. The Eastern Cape will be represented by 906 delegates, KwaZulu-Natal by 608 and Limpopo by 400, with the Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West, the Northern Cape and the Western Cape following in that order.
Once branch nominations have concluded, each province will hold a nomination conference.
”A provincial nomination conference is then called, reflecting the provinces’ representation to national conference. The 60 nominees who receive the most branch nominations will automatically become the provincial nominees for the NEC,” Ngonyama said.
”The six top candidates for the ANC will be announced on the second day of the 52nd national conference,” ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe told the M&G Online.
The top six are the ANC president, deputy president, national chairperson, secretary general, deputy secretary general and treasurer general.
On the leadership issue, Motlanthe said: ”The election of the leadership should be a true reflection of the will and the wish of its [the ANC’s] membership. That is what the ANC would prefer.”
The election of the party’s top six officials as well as 60 positions on the NEC will take place at the conference. Motlanthe said that debates at the conference will also see amendments to the ANC’s constitution, but these amendments will be announced the month before the conference so that all regions can call for changes, if they wish. It is possible that the amendments would include provision for gender parity in all ANC structures.
Motlanthe said that to find the last time the presidency issue was contested, ”you’d have to go back to the period before the banning of the ANC”.
After the unbanning, he said, there was ”consensus that Madiba [Nelson Mandela] would be president and the same was for Thabo Mbeki, but history shows that the presidency of the ANC was always contested”.