ANC branches come to blows over leadership posts

"Police have been deployed to guard branch meetings in Limpopo and the Northern Cape." (Photo: Delwyn Verasamy)

"Police have been deployed to guard branch meetings in Limpopo and the Northern Cape." (Photo: Delwyn Verasamy)

The contest for ANC branch, regional and provincial positions is becoming so fierce that, in an unprecedented development, the police have been deployed to guard branch meetings in Limpopo and the Northern Cape. The leaders will be elected at the party’s conference in December.

On Sunday, police in Giyani had to separate two groups who were on the verge of exchanging blows at the Harry Gwala branch meeting, where local leaders were nominated and regional leadership candidates were being finalised.

“The last BGM [branch general meeting] was highly contested to the extent that we had to provide security at some branches, mainly due to [people’s different] preferences for branch and regional leadership. There were people who wanted to fight and police had to come and calm the situation,” the ANC’s Mopani regional secretary, Makamu Basikopo, said this week.

Northern Cape regional leaders are also expecting violence during the nominations for the provincial leader and confirmed issuing an instruction to all branches to ensure the safety of their members.

At least one branch meeting in the Francis Baard region has already been disrupted during nominations, and police have been deployed at almost every gathering there.

“Because there is experience of people who disrupt, destroy attendance registers and scare participants, branches must take the initiative and make sure the meetings are safe,” the regional secretary, Webster Dichaba, said. “There is an expectation that police will be there for all nominations meetings,” he added.

The branch is the core unit of the ANC structure. Regional and provincial leaders are elected based on nominations at branch meetings. These leaders represent the ordinary members at the party’s national congress, held every five years.

After regional and provincial officials manipulated the nominations in the past, the ANC has moved to protect the branches’ nomination process. It plans to have all nominations for national leaders conducted and sealed at branch level, and then processed at Luthuli House.

Regional and provincial leadership positions translate into local and provincial government posts and the ability to control patronage.

The ANC in Limpopo’s Mopani region is due to hold its conference on February 24. Two factions have emerged: one loyal to current chairperson Seaparo Sekwati and the other lobbying for Phalaborwa mayor Pule Shayi to replace Sekwati. 

Basikopo said the region was not sure who was behind Sunday’s disruption but would take disciplinary action where it was warranted.

The day after the Mopani meeting was disrupted, the secretary in the Northern Cape, Zamani Saul, was nearly assaulted by a group of ANC members who disrupted a lekgotla at the Horseshoe Motel in Kimberley.

Saul is expected to stand against the incumbent Northern Cape premier, Sylvia Lucas, for the position of chairperson at the provincial conference on March 8. The post became available when ANC stalwart John Block resigned last year after being found guilty of corruption.

The group stormed the meeting on Monday and forced the provincial leaders to call an adjournment.

“They came in there, disrupted the meeting and we adjourned it. Later on, when we met with them to ask about the grievances, they couldn’t give us answers. So they said they would send their grievances to the secretary general’s [Gwede Mantashe’s] office,” Saul said.

The Northern Cape lekgotla took place while branches were consolidating nominations for the provincial leadership. The nomination period ends on February 20, with Saul and Lucas expected to emerge as frontrunners.

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