/ 24 July 2008

No opposition as Free State ANC elects leaders

Free State African National Congress (ANC) chairperson Ace Magashule was re-elected unopposed on Thursday as the leader of the party in the province.

All five nominees to the top positions of the ANC were elected unopposed during the second day of the provincial conference in Parys.

The deputy chairperson is Thabo Manyoni, and the provincial secretary is Sibongile Besani, who had been acting in this position in recent months.

Free State agriculture minister Mamiki Qabathe was elected as deputy secretary, while Mxolisi Dukwana was re-elected as treasurer.

Magashule refuted speculation that he had steamrolled members of the party at ground level to support him.

”Can I really be so powerful?” he said, adding that he had not even managed one branch general meeting that elected delegates to the provincial conference.

However, he said it would be a year for ”cleaning up”

”Those who do not listen when the party talks, we would take steps,” he warned.

He was reluctant to say if his re-election was a step closer to being appointed premier of the province.

”I cannot say anything,” he told journalists. ”I have grown up in the ANC so I understand the culture of this movement. It might be my wish but at the end of the day, the NEC [national executive committee] must elect premiers and I would be subject to that process.”

Earlier at the conference, ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema had thrown his weight behind Magashule for re-election, because the latter had ”demonstrated” that he could unite the party in the province.

He said the league would do anything in its power to make sure that the ANC stayed united and repeated his words that he would fight and eliminate anybody who stood in his way.

”For that we are prepared to die,” Malema said while the conference delegates applauded.

The ANC in the Free State should not be managed by the courts but by its structures at ground level, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said at the conference.

Mantashe told delegates: ”This conference will take this province from an era of being managed by the Free State division of the Supreme Court to one where the structures of the movement run the organisation.”

He reiterated the ANC’s earlier decision that those who disrupted, fought and took the organisation to court without using internal processes must be suspended within one month. He said it must be done to defend the integrity of the ANC.

Mantashe said those that ”drag the organisation through the mud”, such as taking the party to court continuously, could not claim that they loved the ANC.

Various ANC members in the Free State had in recent months filed court applications to challenge their suspensions from the party, and there had been allegations of irregularities at branch and regional committee meetings in the run-up to the provincial conference.

The party on Tuesday successfully defended a court application to stop the provincial conference.

Magashule reiterated that the party in the Free State was united. He said if only 15 ANC members in the Free State out of a membership of about 60 000 were taking the party to court over issues, it could not be said that the party was divided.

”There is no crisis and there would never be a crisis,” he said. — Sapa