/ 4 July 2013

Spotted: ANC’s quiet Eastern Cape conference

Spotted: Anc's Quiet Eastern Cape Conference

Last week, the Eastern Cape ANC proved that this was still possible.

Despite a handful of protesters outside the venue who complained about an unduly elected delegate on the first day, the event ran pretty smoothly with no incidents.

About 1 400 ANC members gathered for the party's seventh provincial congress at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.

It took less than a day to register them and the usually contentious, even dangerous process of adopting conference credentials was completed within 30 minutes.

The position of the provincial chairperson, which is the most senior position in the party provincially, was not contested with Phumulo Masualle retaining his post.

The rest of the top five positions were contested and while the incumbents successfully held on to their posts; a new deputy chairperson, Sakhumzi Somyo was elected in place of Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti, who was elected to the ANC's national executive in December.

Somyo was believed to be a key campaigner for the removal of President Jacob Zuma and installation of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in Mangaung in December – a position the Eastern Cape provincial executive was against.

Andile Lungisa, who also opposed the retention of Zuma, was elected onto the new provincial executive committee.

'Political maturity'
Eastern Cape ANC members including those who opposed Zuma and the provincial leadership are crediting "political maturity" for last week's peaceful conference.

One member said: "It showed growth and maturity on how to deal with differences. The conference focused on improving [government] implementation."

Another said while there was a degree of unity, evidenced by the unopposed nomination of provincial chairperson, the provincial leadership had also prepared well for the conference.

"We have never experienced such a peaceful conference ever in the Eastern Cape," said provincial spokesperson Mlibo Qoboshiyane. "It shows the maturity our membership."

Qoboshiyane said the timing of the conference could also have contributed to the peace, saying generally provincial conferences are held in the build up to a national conference when there is a divergence of views on who should lead the ANC.

Provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane also acknowledged the problems while delivering his organisational report, saying a total disregard for democracy was common in some ANC branches across the Eastern Cape – where members were more interested in positions than committing to organisational processes.

"As organisational discipline dwindled, differences of opinion became points of permanent conflict. Despite the outcomes of democratic processes, ill-disciplined elements consolidated themselves into permanent cliques, united in their defeated views.

Factional groupings
"They pursued an agenda to weaken the collective will of the organisation, thus sowing and sustaining divisions," said Mabuyane.

He said this state of affairs also contributed to the diminishing stature of the province in politics as despite its high membership numbers, its voice was divided into many factional groupings. "We became a shadow of our former self," he added.

Qoboshiyane told the Mail & Guardian the province was busy with a membership re-engineering system.

He said the perception that the province's membership had declined was not true. This was due to the divisions, where in most cases some branches and regions did not submit membership numbers for audit and the members were then not accounted for properly.

He claimed that the ANC has dismantled the parallel structures.