The ANC’s plan to elect new leaders in two of its most violence-torn regions has been derailed by threats of a high court interdict about gatekeeping by its regional task team in the Moses Mabhida region.
As a result only the Harry Gwala region held its elective regional conference on Thursday. The region includes Ixopo and Umzimkhulu, where speaker Khaya Thobela and councillor Sindiso Magaqa were murdered last year.
The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) had given regions and provinces until the end of August to hold all outstanding elective meetings. Those that missed the cut-off date will have to wait until after next year’s elections to hold their conferences, in a bid to ensure that pre-conference tensions do not affect the party’s election campaign. They will have to go into the national election without an elected leadership, which may have its own effect on the ANC’s candidate selection processes.
The Moses Mabhida, Harry Gwala and Lower South Coast regions have been run by task teams since last year after their leadership was disbanded following the infighting that took place ahead of the national conference in December. All three have been badly hit by political killings since 2015, when a wave of murders of councillors and party office bearers took place ahead of the 2016 local government elections.
On Wednesday night, branches from the Moses Mabhida region, which includes Pietermaritzburg, Richmond, Camperdown and Howick, halted preparations for the conference by threatening a high court interdict. They claimed the regional task team, comprising 11 members from each of the two ANC factions in the province, had failed to address complaints from wards in Pietermaritzburg, Richmond and Camperdown.
They also claimed that only regional task team members from the faction that supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s presidential bid in December were involved in the branch audit process and had kept out supporters of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“It [the branch audit process] was not supposed to happen at all,” said a Moses Mabhida branch member, who asked not to be named. “There are so many issues outstanding since Jessie Duarte [chairperson of the ANC’s national dispute resolution committee] was here that are still not resolved.
“Both factions were supposed to have been involved in preparing for conference and auditing the branches. This didn’t happen. Only the Zuma faction was involved, and they did what they did before,”
Areas affected included Ward 1 (Table Mountain), Ward 7 and Ward 1 at Richmond and two wards in Camperdown, he said.
A successful conference in Harry Gwala is likely to end some of the tensions that have gripped the region since 2015 and the impasse in the local municipalities it covers.
Proportional representation councillors appointed to replace Magaqa, Thobela and fellow councillor Mduduzi Shibase have not been able to take their seats in the corruption-riddled municipality, partially because of the negotiations taking place in terms of the out-of-court settlement that allowed the KwaZulu-Natal provincial congress to go ahead last month.
ANC provincial spokesperson Gugu Simelane-Zulu confirmed that the Moses Mabhida conference had been postponed “until further notice” because of a threat of high court action by Pietermaritzburg-based branches.
She said one of the reasons was “only one part of the RTT [regional task team]” had participated in the conference preparation processes. Discussions would take place with the aggrieved branches in the next few days, she said.
“We agreed that the conference should not go ahead. With the standing down of the conference, the threat of the interdict no longer stands,” she said.