/ 23 August 2008

Northern Cape’s Nintendo politics

Eyeing the top spot: John Block
Eyeing the top spot: John Block

In one corner, ”members of the Hidden Hand” who moonlight as the ”demonic forces of the dark”. In the other, ”Mugabe and his evil warriors”.

A Nintendo game for teenagers? No, the names of the two groups lobbying respectively for Northern Cape provincial leaders John Block and Neville Mompati, both of whom want to run the province for the next five years.

ANC provincial chairperson Block and provincial secretary Mompati have used every possible ploy to unsettle the other’s campaign for the top job.

Delegates will choose the new provincial chairperson at the Northern Cape ANC conference in Kuruman next week.

The intensity of the leadership contest has been forcibly impressed on regional chairperson Hendrick Visser, who was clobbered over the head with a brick shortly after being elected at the regional conference in Springbok two weeks ago — allegedly by Mompati supporters out to disrupt the meeting.

At a branch meeting Block’s supporters alleged a woman leader was sexually assaulted in Kimberley by Mompati’s ”demonic forces of the dark”. Late-night SMSes are being circulated by Mompati supporters targeting the ”Democrazy PEC [provincial executive committee]” and calling for action to ”stop the new-age Mugabe and his evil warriors”.

Block’s lobbyists churned out lengthy media statements urging readers to ”be wary, be very, very wary of the Hidden Hierarchy”.

Behind the statements are Mompati’s spokesperson, Fezile Kies, and Block’s stormtrooper-in-chief, provincial ANC Youth League chairperson Alvin Botes.

Explaining his fervent support for Block, Botes uses a familiar analogy: ”He was a victim of circumstances. Even before we had Jacob Zuma and the court, we had John Block and the court,” he told the Mail & Guardian, referring to Block’s corruption case in the late 1990s.

Block was charged with attending the North Sea Jazz Festival in Cape Town on the taxpayer’s account and had to repay the money, but corruption charges against him were withdrawn.

Although he has been provincial chairperson for five years, the Northern Cape premiership has eluded him.

He has since climbed on Jacob Zuma’s bandwagon, hoping to profit from the ANC’s new rule that puts provincial chairpersons in pole position for the top government job.

According to Kies, Block’s supporters staged secret branch meetings in the kitchens of members’ homes in Upington and held two regional conferences without the required audit of members.

A provincial leader, who did not want to be named ”for fear of intimidation”, told the M&G that the bitter leadership contest stems from the state being the primary employer in the region.

”For the one lot it is a fight to remain in positions and for the other [it is a fight] to get into those positions. Block chairs the deployment committee, so he can appoint people.

”It is convenient to use the Mbeki-Zuma paradigm, but actually it is about accessing resources.”