Members of the ANC's provincial executive committee in the Eastern Cape have been accused of trying to manipulate delegate credentials at the chaotic OR Tambo regional conference at the weekend to ensure the new elected leadership was not hostile to President Jacob Zuma.
The influential OR Tambo region is the second largest region of the ANC in the country after Ethekwini and the outcome of its elective conference will have a significant bearing on who between Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe emerges as ANC leader during the party's crucial elective conference in four months time.
Zuma's supporters, including provincial executive council (PEC) members, are pushing for the removal of current regional secretary Jackson Sabona and regional chairperson Thandekile Sabisa.
They want the two leaders to be replaced by Lulama Ngcukayithopi and William Ngozi as regional secretary and regional chairperson respectively. The conference, which started on Friday, ground to a halt as accusations and counter-accusations of membership fraud and inflated membership figures were raised.
By 7pm on Sunday, the conference, which started on Friday, had still not adopted delegate credentials, something which is normally done on the first day of the conference. There was heavy security at the conference with more than 20 police vehicles surrounding the Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha.
The anti-Zuma group has blamed the provincial executive, which support Zuma’s re-election campaign for deliberately frustrating processes because the Zuma-aligned faction did not have enough numbers to win the conference.
"This PEC and PWC [Provincial Working Committee] are realising that the balance of forces is against them and are stalling the process of finalising the credentials to allow the conference to elect leadership and want to collapse the conference. These are desperate attempts to prevent a humiliating defeat at the OR Tambo regional conference," said an ANC delegate who asked to remain anonymous.
Another ANC delegate claimed that her branch passed the verification process more than eight times, but the provincial leadership insisted that the branch was not on good standing.
Conference proceedings started off slowly on Sunday morning as all delegates were asked to vacate the hall to allow for a process to verify legitimate delegates using a master list, instead of tags.
This was after a deputy minister, whose name is known to the Mail & Guardian was allegedly found with fraudulent accreditation tags.
Eastern Cape ANC chairperson Phumulo Masualle refuted clams that the PEC was working hard to frustrate the conference. "We can't stop the allegations. All that we wanted was to make sure all legitimate branches are given space to participate at the conference. We have no reason to do that [manipulating credentials]. What we are interested in is to see the conference running smoothly. We don't need divisions in the ANC. We have too much of it already," said Masualle.
He defended the PEC's decision to take over the running of the conference. "It is standard procedure that regional conferences are run with the guidance of the provincial executive. There is a tendency to create an impression that the region is hostile to the provincial leadership. That’s not the case," said Masualle.