North West ANC members cry foul over candidate lists

Sticking to his guns: Sello Lehari said the process was fair. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Sticking to his guns: Sello Lehari said the process was fair. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Disgruntled ANC members from the Bojanala region in the North West have accused party headquarters at Luthuli House of deliberately ignoring their disputes over alleged irregularities on the candidate list for the local elections on August 3.

The Mail & Guardian has seen several letters written by Bojanala regional leaders to senior ANC office bearers, including secretary general Gwede Mantashe, in which they accuse senior provincial party bosses of imposing their preferred candidates to be nominated as councillors. 

ANC provincial deputy chairperson and North West education MEC Sello Lehari is singled out in the letters for allegedly having interfered and manipulated the process to nominate mayoral candidates and ward councillors in the province.

Lehari is a close ally of North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, who is associated with the influential faction in the ANC known as the “premier league”, which also includes Free State Premier Ace Magashule and Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza.

For the first time since it came to power in 1994, the ANC has registered the highest number of disputes from branches as members revolt against the practice by some leaders of imposing candidates not favoured by communities to represent the party at local government level. 

In the North West, regional leaders accused Lehari of using his powerful position as provincial list committee chair to ensure that certain members of the ANC, who had been chosen by communities as their preferred candidates, were removed and replaced with members who were not popular in those communities.

Thabo Mashomo, regional secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP) in Bojanala, is one of the tripartite alliance leaders who have expressed dissatisfaction about the conduct of ANC provincial leaders.

Mashomo, who is also a member of the regional list committee, said Lehari had undermined ANC guidelines by selecting candidates outside the regional list committee processes. He also accused the provincial leaders, including Mahumapelo and Lehari, of removing regional ANC secretary Tokyo Mataboge from his position so that they could impose their preferred candidate.

Lehari dismissed all the allegations against him and said his job was to ensure the selection process was free and fair, and not marred by corruption. He said all changes to lists were made in instances where processes were not followed: “Some lists came with male [candidates] only, then we had to balance gender proportionality, but no names were removed.” 

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa referred all questions to the provincial structure, but provincial secretary Dakota Legoete failed to reply to written questions this week.

Mataboge said the provincial leaders removed him in order to manipulate the list and remove people chosen by the community and replace them with political allies.

The North West is not the only province that has experienced unhappiness from ANC members about candidate lists.

Earlier this month, various branches from Gauteng protested outside Luthuli House against candidates being imposed on them, with some supporters even threatening to boycott the ANC’s Gauteng election manifesto launch.

In Kwazulu-Natal, KwaMashu residents brought eThekwini to a standstill by burning tyres and blocking roads, as they claimed that their preferred candidate for ward councillor was excluded from the list. 

In the Eastern Cape, an ANC councillor’s house in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, was petrol-bombed on Tuesday and Tshwane experienced two days of violent protests as angry ANC supporters, unhappy with the party’s decision to select Thoko Didiza as mayoral candidate, took to the streets to burn and loot.

Although Luthuli House ordered the Bojanala list conference to be reconvened, regional leaders, including Mataboge, said the order was just window-dressing as the same problems persisted.

Some of the ANC members who were removed from the lists, including Mataboge, said they would stand as independent candidates.

The SACP said it was disappointed that not a single member from the tripartite alliance had been nominated as a candidate to represent the ANC in the province.

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