Free State ANC branches rattle elective conference

Hopes for unity are further complicated by divisions in the anti-Magashule branches over who they will support to contest the position of chairperson (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Hopes for unity are further complicated by divisions in the anti-Magashule branches over who they will support to contest the position of chairperson (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The ANC in the Free State could face more legal battles as disgruntled branches resist efforts by the provincial task team (PTT) to forge ahead with an elective conference scheduled for next week.

And cracks have emerged in the anti-Ace Magashule group over who should replace him as ANC provincial chairperson — former Mangaung mayor and ANC provincial deputy chairperson Thabo Manyoni or former economic development MEC and ANC provincial treasurer Mxolisi Dukwana.

Following demonstrations in the province and nearly 400 letters written to the party’s top six officials in the past two months, ANC branches that backed Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to become ANC president at the December national conference have handed a memorandum to national officials calling for the reconfiguration of the “factional” provincial task team.

The branches say they are not ruling out legal action if the task team goes ahead with the provincial elective conference on March 17 without waiting for a decision from national office on its composition.

Senior party member Sello Dithebe, who is leading efforts to block the conference, said unhappy branches would exhaust all internal approaches before taking legal action.

“We are saying for every action [by the PTT] there will be a reaction [by unhappy branches], but we are hoping that the national officials will live up to the expectations of members of the ANC and the general support base and arrest this so that we do not have to settle this in court,” he said.

Branches have argued that the 15-member task team is made up of the same provincial executive committee (PEC) that was disbanded by the high court last year, and that all except two in the team are loyal to Magashule, who is now the ANC secretary general.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe confirmed that the ANC had received the memorandum from the Free State branches. The key demand is the call for the interim structure to be dissolved and a balanced task team to be appointed. Mabe said in a statement that the party would review the request and “necessary feedback will be conveyed to the members in due course”.

But the spokesperson for the ANC Free State interim structure, Thabo Meeko, said some party members were proving themselves to be unnecessarily hostile towards a structure appointed by the ANC national executive committee (NEC).

“I think for them to go to Luthuli House … that is the right level to engage this matter because the PIC [provincial interim committee] did not appoint itself, it was appointed by the NEC,” Meeko said.

“We tried to extend engagement to everybody to understand why some are unhappy but it is clear that some people are just not willing to accept the structure appointed by the NEC.”

Disgruntled members have also alleged that disputed branches, which led to the court’s dissolution of the PEC, have still not been audited or had their branch general meetings (BGMs) rerun. Dithebe said the rush to hold a conference despite this fact showed the task team had a sinister motive.

But Meeko said the process of rerunning those BGMs were under way, with a deadline to complete them by March 13. “Indeed, there are people who are deliberately frustrating the process of holding successful BGMs, but others have been concluded.”

Calls are also being made for the proposed names of three premier candidates — co-operative governance MEC Sisi Ntombela, transport MEC Sam Mashinini and social development MEC Limakatso Mahasa — to be withdrawn.

“We cannot be happy [with the names] at all because everything begins with the perceived credibility and legitimacy of the structure. It cannot be that the same structure whose credibility is in doubt should be the one recommending to the NEC who should replace Comrade Magashule,” Dithebe said.

Those leading the call for the task team to be reconstituted say balanced representation will allow the province to eradicate factionalism.

Hopes for unity are further complicated by divisions in the anti-Magashule branches over who they will support to contest the position of chairperson.

They had initially intended to back Manyoni but Dukwana, another candidate from the same grouping, has also thrown his hat in.

A party member of this grouping said a compromise was made on Manyoni a long time ago, because he was best suited to block Magashule’s re-entry into the province, despite him not being the better of the two candidates. Manyoni was the best choice “because he knows the province well and knows all the tricks Magashule uses”.

“Manyoni was the brains behind Magashule. Everything that man did was crafted by Manyoni. We are using him in a sense but we don’t want him to serve more than one term,” the party member said.

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