Road to Mangaung: Political ping pong in ANC branches

Eight provinces held a total of 15 by-elections and two closely fought battles saw the ANC gain a ward in the Western Cape and the Democratic Alliance retain a hotly contested one in Gauteng. It also saw the ANC lose the ward that includes Lonmin's Marikana mine to a 32-year-old independent candidate. According to Business Day, Mogomotsi Molefe beat the ANC candidate in Rustenburg's ward 33 on Wednesday by 67 votes.

In the Western Cape, the ANC won control of a sixth municipality after it stole a ward from the DA in Vredendal, winning control of the Matzikama municipality.

The ANC won ward 2 in Matzi-kama during the by-elections on Wednesday after fielding a former DA member, Delina Goedeman.

She was the mayor of the municipality for the DA, but after a falling-out with the party, resigned and joined the ANC, which created a vacancy in the council.

The municipality was governed by the ANC in a coalition until last year's local government elections, when the DA took over. During those elections the party received 1075 votes and the ANC 865 from the ward's 3551 registered voters. This time both parties increased their support, with the ANC receiving 1261 to the DA's Johan Alexander 1101.

The ANC now has seven seats in the 15-seat council and will form a coalition with the local People's Independent Civic Organisation, which has one seat. The DA has six seats and the New Generation Party, which previously ruled in a coalition with the ANC, has one.

An ANC member said the DA had lost the ward because of Goedeman's departure as well as a failure to mobilise support. "It's not necessarily because the ANC is becoming stronger or that it worked harder, but it's the negatives from the DA's side," said the source, who preferred not to be named.

In a text message, ANC provincial chairperson and former Matzikama mayor Marius Fransman said the party was reconnecting with communities and regaining support.

In Gauteng, the ANC this week lost a by-election to the DA in ward 58, which comprises Mayfair, Fordsburg and Vrededorp. The DA snatched the Johannesburg ward from the ruling party during the municipal elections in May last year. Until then, the area had been an ANC stronghold since 1994.

On Wednesday, Uthman Cassim won 1665 votes to Muhammad Cajee's 1384. Cope received 28 votes. The ANC's campaign had included rallies, motorcycle parades and press conferences. Cajee was a high-calibre candidate who served as a bureau chief for international news agency Al Jazeera in Washington.

The DA leader in Gauteng, Mike Moriarty, said voters in the area were aware that problems in the area could be ascribed to the ANC, which controlled the council, instead of their ward councillor, who had resigned from her position.

"The voters are starting to get the message that they need to give us a chance to take charge so that things can improve," Moriarty said.

ANC members in the Strand allegedly sabotaged a branch meeting last weekend after realising their preferred candidate did not have enough votes to secure election.

Members of the ANC's ward 86 branch outside Cape Town, which covers the townships of Lwandle, Rusthof and Greenways, were due to elect new branch leaders before choosing delegates to represent them at the Mangaung conference.

Three members, who were not authorised to comment officially, said the branch meeting started more than seven hours after the scheduled 2pm start, having waited for a quorum of 364 to be achieved.

The branch has been without leadership since May and top of its agenda was to elect new branch executives.

Ntobeko Ndabula – a man who is understood to support President Jacob Zuma's second term – was elected successfully as branch chairperson. The election was done through a show of hands.

It was during the election of the deputy chairperson – another Zuma supporter – that two senior members of the branch, who allegedly belong to an opposing faction, allegedly flipped the main power switch on the other side of the hall while the votes were being counted.

Vicket Mavungavunga's victory as deputy chairperson couldn't be announced. Sources said the power was cut off for about two or three minutes before members of the winning faction switched it back on. By this time there was chaos in the room, with a large group singing and toyi-toying. Members called for the meeting to be adjourned, saying they felt unsafe in the venue.

"Among those who wanted to stop the meeting was the official deployed to oversee the meeting," said one member.

The members who spoke to the Mail & Guardian said they believed the chaos had been preplanned and that the plan would be carried out if the faction's preferred candidates were on the losing side. "They could see the trend. We were winning the branch leadership and we were obviously going to win the elections for Mangaung," said another.

The aggrieved members have written to the ANC's national, provincial and regional leadership, asking for the meeting to be reconvened and the party to investigate the events. The regional secretary of the ANC's Dullah Omar region (Cape Metro), Vuyiso JJ Tyhalisisu, said he was aware of the incident because the ­official who presided over the ­meeting had briefed him.

Power problems
Meanwhile, on a chilly Tuesday night, it was after 8pm and a branch general meeting in Johannesburg was battling to reach a quorum. Comrades were frantically phoning others to come and join them.

This was the Mzala branch in Mondeor, south of Johannesburg, which incorporates Ormonde, Southgate and Ridgeway. The expensive cars parked at the Mondeor Recreation Centre indicated that it was a branch populated by South Africa's young middle class.

Many civil servants working either at the Johannesburg City Council or in the various departments of the Gauteng provincial government were there, including the mayor of the city, Parks Tau, and agriculture MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza.

A man walked past, swearing and blaming the soap opera Generations for the absence of members.

"The ANC should impose a moratorium on Generations until the branch general meetings are concluded," he said.

At least one person was irritated that his name was not reflected on the list of branch members and tried to call the branch leader. At about 9pm, a few more members had turned up but the branch was still short of just fewer than 30 people to achieve a quorum. However, the centre was plunged into darkness along with most of Johannesburg's southern suburbs.

Many members cried sabotage, but there was very little that could be done as people got into their luxury cars and headed home. Electricity was only restored after midnight. The meeting was rescheduled for November 4 and it apparently met the quorum.

The final nomination by Mzala branch is for Kgalema Motlanthe for president, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as deputy president, Joel Netshitenzhe as secretary general, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule as deputy secretary, the retention of Mathews Phosa as treasurer general and Paul Mashatile as national chairperson.

The branch nominated two of its own, Parks Tau and Mayathula-Khoza, as national executive committee members.

Others nominated for the national executive committee include Tokyo Sexwale, Fikile Mbalula, Zweli Mkhize, Qedani Mahlangu, Senzo Mchunu, Mandla Nkomfe, Thandi Modise, Malusi Gigaba and Amos Masondo.

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Rapule Tabane
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