ANC Women’s League branches in shambles

The ANC Women’s League has realised that two of its provincial branches are in such a shambles that it will have to wait until April 2015 for its already delayed national conference to take place.

The league last held a national conference in 2009. According to its constitution, the conference should be convened at least every five years.

The league held off having a conference last year because of the ANC’s preparations for the national elections in 2014 and planned to hold it towards the end of this year.

But now the league’s internal structures have presented their own challenges. A membership audit has revealed that the league in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape does not have the required number of members.

Road map to conferences
“We see so many women in green blouses but, administratively, it means nothing if their membership is not paid up and in good standing,” said the league’s president, Angie Motshekga.

She said that, to qualify for membership, a would-be member had to be a member of the ANC. “Sometimes branches collapse because the leadership is not filing [information] properly. The Western Cape had very few branches in good standing.”

Motshekga, who is the minister of basic education, was briefing the media after the league’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting at the weekend.

“The NEC has adopted the road map to the national policy conference, which will be held in December 2014, and the national conference, which takes place in April 2015,” Motshekga read from a written statement.

The administrative difficulties and the women’s league’s current low profile raised the question of whether the league, which has a proud history of fighting for women’s rights, is becoming irrelevant and weak.

But the league’s secretary general, Sisisi Tolashe, dismissed the suggestion.

“There is no point where we will be irrelevant; we will be forever relevant. We sometimes influence the policy of the ANC without being loud about it. The issue of us being relevant or not is neither here nor there because we are forever there.”

A woman for president
The NEC took place after a report appeared in the Mail & Guardian on Friday stating that Motshekga’s challenger to the throne, Bathabile Dlamini, was pushing for a resolution to be taken at the league’s conference to support a woman to take over as president of the ANC in 2017, and of the country in 2019.

Another candidate likely to be nominated for the position is Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

“We have a lot of women leaders in South Africa. We think it is about time to have a woman president,” Dlamini said in an interview with the M&G last week. “This is one of the issues we will raise during the women’s league conference, the ANC general council next year and the national conference in 2017.”

Motshekga was not perturbed by the discussion about a woman president.

“Whoever wants a women’s debate is free to sponsor such a discussion but, until it goes through our structures and it has been processed, we can’t say it’s a position. We have never been anti a woman president. It helps us to have women in power.”

Challenge to Ramaphosa
If the resolution is adopted, it could mean that ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa will be challenged by a woman candidate for the top ANC position in 2017.

Dlamini mentioned Baleka Mbete, the ANC chairperson, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the African Union Commission chairperson, as being among suitable candidates.

“I would support Baleka or Nkosazana to be president of the country any day,” she said. “You have many capable leaders within the ANC … you have women premiers and ministers. We have many women who have excelled in their work.”

Some women’s league branches have started to lobby Dlamini to stand for the position of league president.

Asked whether she would accept nomination for the position, Dlamini said she could not comment about leadership positions before the league’s branches discussed the matter.

“I don’t even know the date of the conference. Branches have not started with the nomination process as yet. People are just talking. The ANC has its own procedures and practices. Right now, I think no branch has started nomination. It would be arrogant of me to say I am standing when branches have not started [nominations]. The conference is not about me but programmes of the organisation.”

Pillars within the organisation
Dlamini said the conference needed to select a leadership that would respond to the needs of women and the country: “As the leadership, we must try to be dynamic and draw into our ranks professionals and businesswomen. Ordinary women have always been the pillar within the organisation.”

But some in the league are unhappy about the prospect of Dlamini standing for president. A leader of the league in the Western Cape said she would not support Dlamini because she was originally from Zuma’s province, KwaZulu-Natal.

“We can’t have all ANC leaders coming from one province,” said the provincial leader, who favours Motshekga.

Women’s league sources have claimed that those supporting Mokonyane, who are known as “Mvulas”, have launched a serious campaign to make sure that the former Gauteng premier gets elected at the national conference. She is said to enjoy the support of the younger generation in the league.

Mokonyane was not available to comment. Motshekga said she would await the nomination process and take the mandate, if any, from the league’s branches.

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Verashni Pillay
Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.

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