All eyes on ANC branch nominations

It’s “do or die” this weekend as a majority of ANC branches nominate candidates for national leadership with the process already marred by disputes and violent confrontations between factions.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are the apparent front runners, with treasurer Zweli Mkhize and NEC member Lindiwe Sisulu tailing behind them. The nominations from branches, which are sent directly to Luthuli House, will be the first real indication of how much support each of the candidates have.

But their supporters have accused each other of rigging the branch general meetings (BGMs) where nominations are made and preventing the nomination of candidates from opposing factions.

The most contested nominations are taking place in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape – the ANC’s three biggest provinces – none of which are united on who to support at the December conference.

In KwaZulu-Natal more than 80 percent of branches across the 11 regions are expected to hold their BGMs this weekend in what one of Cyril Ramaphosa’s key organisers in the province, MPL [member of the provincial legislature] Jomo Sibiya, described as a ‘’do or die weekend’’.

Sibiya said that following the failure of a large number of branches to hold their meetings last weekend, some because of the failure of Regional Executive Committee deployees to turn up on time, most would happen this weekend. Those which didn’t complete this weekend would do theirs on November 4 and 5.

Sibiya said that in Nquthu’s Ward 5, branch members waited from 10h30 to 17h30 for the regional deployee to arrive. He never turned up.

‘’We contacted the provincial secretary and chair and they were also shocked. We are concerned that the regions are doing this on purpose to frustrate branches which are not backing their choice of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as candidate for president,’’ Sibiya said.

Branches had also complained that members who had been part of the membership audit and had qualified to participate had been removed from the rolls, while in others people who were not on the rolls were allowed to participate, Sibiya said.

‘’People are not being allowed to participate even if they have valid memberships slips,’’ he said.

Sibiya said this appeared to be a ‘’strategy’’ to ‘’frustrate’’ branches which backed Ramaphosa from getting to conference.

He said, however, that support for Ramaphosa was strong in regions like Inkosi Bambatha, eMalahleni, the Lower South Coast, Abaqulusi and Far North.

‘’The strategy to frustrate us is not going to work. The mood is shocking them in the other regions. They have the majority in eThekwini and Moses Mabhida but the margins are close. We are confident of taking them in the other regions,’’ he said.

‘’More than 80 percent of the branches will hold their meetings this weekend. It really is a do or die weekend,’’ Sibiya said.

Sibiya said that a verified figure for the province showed that Dlamini-Zuma had been nominated by 58 branches and 24 had chosen Ramaphosa. The bulk of the Dlamini-Zuma support came from eThekwini (34 branches) and Moses Mabhida (12).

Only one branch had sat and Inkosi Bambatha, five at Abaqulusi and two and Far North.

14 branches will hold their BGMs in Mpumalanga this weekend and while the province is expected to deliver votes for Dlamini-Zuma in December, Ramaphosa and Mkhize appear to have secured the support of influential regional leaders.

The M&G reliably understands that most branches in the Ekangala and the Bohlabelo regions are backing Ramaphosa while Ehlanzeni and Gert Sibande are expected to back the choice of chairperson and premier David Mabuza. He has not yet publicly endorsed any leader, but has been linked to Mkhize’s “Unity” campaign.

“There is an animal called “Unity” that is being nominated in this province. He has no identity, no name and no surname but someone is behind it. That individual? It is obvious. It is DD [Mabuza]. It is very clear that these are his instructions and ‘’Unity’’ is just a euphemism for premier league,” a regional Mpumalanga leader told the M&G anonymously.

“The PEC by its nature is controlled by one individual and that individual decided that the province would pronounce “Unity” as its preferred candidate,” he continued.

Lagging further behind the presidential candidates is former ANC treasurer Matthews Phosa, whose supporters claim he had made inroads in the province.

“We are not concerned about “Unity”, this is all a ploy by the premier. The province is already divided we do not need complications like that. Things are tense here, as I say all these things to you I could become a target… but… I can confidently say that our president [Phosa] is doing very well. There are branches that are calling his name in bulk- disregard his chances at your peril,” Phosa’s national organiser Ronnie Malomane said.

Ramaphosa’s lobbyists claimed that Mpumalanga branches have been nominating him “left, right and centre”, but this was rubbished by provincial secretary Mandla Ndlovu.

“There is no truth to the rumours that the province is behind Cyril…. The period that we are in is filled with misinformation and people tend to promote their preferred candidate at the expense of compromising the truth.”

Disputes over the convening of branch general meetings have scuppered the process of nominating national leaders in the Eastern Cape.

The Eastern Cape’s provincial executive committee (PEC) endorsed Cyril Rampahosa’s campaign to take over from Zuma, after its first meeting two weeks ago. But regional leaders from Joe Gqabi, Nelson Mandela Bay and Amathole have delayed their BGMs over a dispute of the provincial conference.

The Joe Gqabi and Nelson Mandela Bay regions are expected to nominate Dlamini-Zuma for president, while the Alfred Nzo region’s branches have pronounced their support of Mkhize.

These regional leaders joined 10 former PEC members disputing the outcome of the conference where Oscar Mabuyane was elected to replace premier Phumulo Masualle as chairperson.

The ANC’s national executive committee members (NEC) are due to visit the province this weekend, when a decision on their appeal could be taken. Joe Gqabi regional secretary Mfundo Bongela said his region cannot preside over nominations for national leadership until that appeal is finalised.

“Finishing the nominations from branches in such a short time will be a bit of a problem but we’ll try out best because branches indicated their readiness. We are hoping that at least this weekend, the matter will be finalised. when the NEC leaves on Monday, we will be able to get it started,” he told the M&G.

But Eastern Cape secretary Lulama Ngcukaitobi said not all of the nominations have been delayed by the pending dispute.

“There are regions that have not submitted programs for BGMs but individual branches have submitted their program. In Amathole there are many branches, the branches are eager to continue. And that applies to Nelson Mandela Bay, Joe Gqabi and other regions,” Ngcukaitobi said.

Chris Hani secretary Lusanda Sizani said only two of the 20 branches submitted nominations, with the rest due this weekend.

In the Free State tensions between pro Ramaphosa and pro Dlamini-Zuma groupings resulted in a violent altercation in the Lejweleputswa region on Sunday, where a party member was stabbed.

The majority of the Free State’s 291 qualifying branches were expected to sit for their BGMs this weekend. The province’s chairperson Ace Magashule is one of Dlamini-Zuma’s most vocal backers and is expected to deliver the majority of branches to her slate. But supporters of deputy Free State chairperson Thabo Manyoni believe they can persuade the branches to back Ramaphosa.

The Northern Cape Francis Baard regional secretary has been reported to national ANC officials for allegedly convening BGMs without the rest of the region’s knowledge. Chairperson Thapelo Dithebe said the region was a Dlamini-Zuma stronghold, with 35 of the 65 branches backing her, but the secretary supports Ramaphosa’s campaign. The Namaqua and John Taolo Gaetsewe regions are also expected to back Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign.

The province endorsed the CR17 campaign immediately after its conference, where regions supporting premier Sylvia Lucas walked out of the gathering after her faction declined to contest the conference election. Provincial secretary Deshi Nxanga said most of the branches are nominating Ramaphosa, in line with their endorsement.

The Western Cape is expected to line up behind Ramaphosa and will announce their preferred leaders in the second week of November. The BGMs in the province, however, look set to be challenged by Dlamini-Zuma’s supporters.

Leaders of the Dullah Omar region told the M&G the names of people whose membership was verified in the national audit are being left off the attendance registers for nomination.

In Gauteng, only 100 of the 470 branches have convened BGMs. The M&G understands that early trends in the Tshwane and Johannesburg regions indicated support for Ramaphosa, with nearly 80% of the branches that held meetings nominating him.

Last week’ Ramaphosa enjoyed large-scale support at a rally addressed in the North West, despite the provincial leaders statement that the ANC deputy was campaigning in the area without their blessing.

The province’s chairperson Supra Mahumapelo is expected to bring massive support for Dlamini-Zuma, but he faces a rebellion by branches in the Ngaka Modiri Molema and Bojanalo regions.

The North West has only held a handful of BGMs so far, with a majority expected to happen at the weekend.

The last few weeks have seen the leadership contest intensify in Limpopo as Dlamini-Zuma has started to make inroads in some regions, challenging Ramaphosa’s home ground advantage.The threat of her growing presence is believed to have been behind Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha’s decision to reshuffle his cabinet on Wednesday. Mathabatha is understood to be backing Ramaphosa for the presidential position.

In the reshuffle former Cooperative Governance MEC Makoma Makhurupetje, a known Dlamini- Zuma lobbyist, was shifted to the Transport department, a move believed to be Mathabatha’s attempt at keeping her influence over traditional leaders at bay. 

In September Makhurupetje accompanied Dlamini-Zuma on a visit to the Mopani region, one of the biggest in the province, where party insiders said 60% of branches were expected to vote in her favour. Earlier this month transport minister and former provincial secretary Joe Maswanganyi also flanked Dlamini-Zuma on another visit to the province, in the Sekhukhune region that is Mathabatha’s stronghold.

As former provincial secretary Maswanganyi, still has a large enough influence to boost support for Dlamini-Zuma. Sekhukhune is however believed to be backing Ramaphosa.The Vhembe region also declared support for the deputy president to take over.“We have been very clear from the beginning that we support the tradition of the ANC for the deputy president to take over as president,” said Vhembe regional secretary Khathu Netshifhefhe.

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