/ 29 September 2017

Mabuyane gains advantage in E Cape as court bid fails

Oscar Mabuyane.
Oscar Mabuyane.

A court bid to nullify the Eastern Cape ANC’s OR Tambo 2015 regional conference failed this week, clearing the way for provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane to win the leadership race at this weekend’s provincial conference, his supporters believe.

The application, by two ANC members, was dismissed by Mthatha high court judge Selby Mbenenge, who said they had waited too long to bring the case before court.

The merits of their claim that deceased ANC members were allowed to take part in the 2015 conference were not tested. Mabuyane’s supporters believe the case was an attempt to weaken his support base.

“It shows that the court application was meant to destabilise Oscar’s support base in OR Tambo region, but it failed,” said a regional ANC leader who wished to remain anonymous.

Mabuyane is to contest incumbent chair Phumulo Masualle at the conference in East London. Masualle and Mabuyane differ on provincial dynamics, but both have endorsed Cyril Ramaphosa as a candidate to succeed Jacob Zuma as ANC leader.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe will complete a final verification of membership, which will determine the number of delegates eligible to attend the conference.

Although Mabuyane’s faction believes he stands a good chance, Masualle’s backers, including provincial executive committee member Andile Lungisa, said verification of credentials may change the outcome.

Lungisa hopes to be elected secretary alongside Masualle and is backing Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for ANC president. If Masualle wins, he is believed to be hoping to persuade Masualle to transfer his support.

“Oscar is not going to be announced as chair … That’s a narrative led by the media, which is sympathetic to Cyril Phumulo is going to emerge,” Lungisa told the Mail & Guardian.

The number of delegates to attend the conference could be between 1 600 and 1 800, depending on the credentials report presented on Friday morning. Mabuyane’s backers believe his supporters dominate the OR Tambo, Buffalo City, Sarah Baartman, Chris Hani and Alfred Nzo regions. Masualle’s support is mainly in the Nelson Mandela Bay, Amathole and Joe Gqabi regions.

“The race is neck and neck. It’s a highly contested conference,” a lobbyist supporting Masualle told the M&G. “Phumulo has got the upper hand. Oscar manipulated and wanted to rig the conference where they put almost 200 delegates above.”

Mabuyane said: “There’s a lot of interest in the conference itself. Many think the EC has a role to play in the national space. This [outcome] is going to indicate how things are going to play out at a national level.”