Blame it on Polokwane

Pitched battles between different factions of the ANC in the Northern Cape delayed the start of the party’s provincial conference last week, among allegations of intimidation and violence.

ANC leaders in the Northern Cape blamed the excessive focus on last year’s national conference in Polokwane for the delay. ANC Northern Cape deputy secretary general Zamani Saul said the focus on last year’s national congress as a result of the tight race for the ANC presidency meant that the party had lost control of its membership base at regional and branch level.

The Northern Cape provincial conference could not start as scheduled last week because of battles between supporters of ANC chairperson John Block and provincial secretary Neville Mompati. Supporters of both factions insisted that they be accredited as delegates to the congress, even though this meant double representation of some branches.

Saul said the process of selecting branch and regional delegates had been fraught with illegality. He said some regions applied corrupt tactics in nominating representatives for the conference and that in some instances there were two sets of nominations from one region.

”Regions such as Siyanda and Namakwa do not have a regional executive committee to facilitate the process of nominations properly. So the provincial executive committee resolved to endorse a branch general meeting programme for the entire region. Unfortunately some branches did not abide by the rules of the programme, instead they conducted their own branch general meetings outside the scope of the resolution. Currently we have two sets of delegates from the region,” said Saul.

This week the party’s national executive committee announced that the Siyanda, Namakwa and Frances Baard regions would have dual representation at the conference because excluding the regions from the conference would not solve the conflict.

On Tuesday evening, when the sixth ANC provincial conference was scheduled to begin, delegates had not been registered and accreditation had not been granted to most non-voting delegates. Long queues had started to form outside the Ga-Segonyana municipal buildings in Kuruman for late-night registration.

While tired and frustrated delegates danced and sang revolutionary songs accusing current provincial chairperson Block of corruption, police cordoned off the conference venue to prevent gatecrashers and the media from entering.

Block’s tenure has been marred by political wrangling and accusations of corruption. These have weakened his power base, despite alleged support from the provincial ANC youth league and ANC Women’s League because of Block’s apparent support for ANC president Jacob Zuma.

Tension in the province was heightened with the murder of party stalwart Victor Kibi in the Namakwa region a week ago. The killing was widely believed to be politically motivated.

Intimidation, street-level campaigning and physical violence have plagued this year’s conference, according to Mompati. He said all the regions in the province are experiencing this problem and only good leadership could bring back the spirit of comradeship.

Mompati said: ”A lot of wrong things happened during the branch conferences, where we had meetings that did not quorate. To force meetings to quorate some members would go to members who were absent at the meeting to make them sign the attendance register.” But Mompati said that there was no conflict between himself and John Block and denied that the party was divided.

”Honestly, there is no bad blood between the two of us. We are comrades and blood brothers … and I think we are all against the ill discipline that we have seen in the branches and [united in] that we want a successful conference,” said Mompati.

He also dismissed any links in the province to the ”Mbeki or Zuma camps”, emphasising that members who are against decisions made in Polokwane ”should leave because they do not have a place in the ANC”.

Most of the delegates were not happy about the delay on Tuesday evening. Mzwandile Dlabazana from the Frances Baard region in Kimberley said the situation in the province is the result of a ”power struggle gone wrong”.

He accused the provincial leadership of having lost focus. He said Block’s leadership has reached its sell-by date and if he clings to power heads will roll.

”We at branch level want to tell Block and his comrades that the ANC is made of branches, not the provincial executive committee,” said Dlabazana.

He added: ”I’d like Mompati to win. I believe he has the will to address the plight of the working class and to create space for dialogue within the party, unlike comrade Block.”

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