Newly elected ANC Free State chairperson Sam Mashinini wants party structures in the province to rally behind Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of the country and the ANC.
But delegates at the Free State conference that elected Mashinini sang songs praising former president Jacob Zuma.
“You can do whatever that you want to say but in this country, right now, the president as we speak now is comrade Cyril Ramaphosa. So it becomes the responsibility of each and every leader to rally behind the president who was elected by [the] majority of branch members that were at Nasrec [ANC elective conference last December],” Mashinini said in an interview with the Mail & Guardian this week.
Though careful not to criticise his supporters, he said ANC members who sang pro-Zuma songs were taking the ANC backward.
“I hate to be taken backward. Because now I have to look into the future and say, how do I make this organisation grow? The moment you tell me about what happened, that takes me backward. Let me tell you, you make my heart bleed,” he said.
Mashinini served as Free State leader of the National Union of Mineworkers when Ramaphosa was its general secretary in the late 1980s.
The Free State was regarded as one of the “premier league” provinces that supported ANC national executive committee member Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the preferred candidate to succeed Zuma as ANC president. The other provinces aligned to the premier league were Mpumalanga, North West and KwaZulu-Natal.
But Mashinini this week said his province and others who supported Dlamini-Zuma needed to accept the Nasrec outcome and move forward in the interest of uniting the ANC.
Mashinini said he and his newly elected leadership would continue to dissuade ANC branches from factional conduct.
“We have said on many platforms, even before the conference … we have said in the province there is no more NDZ, there is no more JZ. And that’s what we are telling our members every day.”
He said a priority would be to unite the deeply divided province to ensure that the ANC would be ready to start effective campaigning ahead of next year’s elections.
But his plans for unity have already encountered difficulties; yet another court battle looms in the province over the election of a new leadership.
Mashinini and his provincial executive committee face the threat of legal action by disgruntled party members who believe the conference that elected him last week was held in contravention of a court order.
In December the high court in Bloemfontein nullified the outcome of a provincial conference held in Parys, ordering the party to rerun branch general meetings (BGMs) in 14 branches where irregularities had been found.
Unhappy party members claim the court order was not abided by, and that this month’s elective conference was rushed.
Mashinini dismissed these claims and said he was confident the province had followed due process in holding the conference.
According to the provincial leadership, five of the BGMs were rerun and the remaining nine branches, which did not sit successfully, did not attend the conference because of their disqualified status.
“After everything was done the matter was taken to national to say this is how far the Free State has gone in order to ensure we comply. [We were] asking for permission to say we are ready to go to conference, and that’s why we were given the green light,” said Mashinini.
Those unhappy with Mashinini’s election have also complained that he might be a proxy for ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, the former Free State premier and ANC provincial chairperson, who is believed to have listed Mashinini as one of his preferred candidates.
Mashinini denied these allegations and said he was in his position because ANC branches believe him to be the best person for the job.
“I’m there because the branches have spoken,” he said. “In my view the conference said this is the [best] person that we see. I then said, if the conference and the branches are seeing this, who am I to defy the branches?”