Ghostbuster cleans up ANC branches

The ANC’s introduction of identity book scanners to verify membership seems to be paying off: it is rooting out ghost members and dummy branches during the party’s nomination process before next year’s national and provincial elections.

New technology and procedures introduced by the party’s organising department after its national conference at Nasrec in December entail that members are only allowed to participate in branch general meetings after their IDs have been scanned. The scanners are linked to the Luthuli House database, on which all members’ identity and other details are recorded.

READ MORE: ‘Ghost’ branches, municipal capture ‘threatens’ ANC in Mpumalanga

The manual system proved to be inefficient and open to manipulation, enabling regional leaders to create nonexistent members and branches to inflate delegation sizes before elective meetings. It also allowed “gatekeeping”, with which regional leaders were able to prevent members of opposing factions from participating in meetings and elective processes by destroying their membership applications.

The run-up to the December conference was marred by disputes over the manipulation of processes, and the legitimacy of several conference outcomes in KwaZulu-Natal, North West and the Free State were challenged in court. The outcome of the Mpumalanga provincial conference at which then chairperson David Mabuza was elected is also the subject of a high court challenge by branches in the province, after dead ANC members were found to be on membership lists. A number of cloned branches in Mpumalanga regions were also uncovered by the ANC’s dispute resolution committee.

Although the party is lagging behind in its drive to ensure that its more than 3 000 branches hold their branch general meetings by the cutoff date this weekend, it is satisfied that the shift to the new technology will help to restore the integrity of its most basic and important structures.

Senzo Mchunu, the ANC’s head of organising, said on Wednesday: “The process is going very well in terms of legitimacy and in terms of authenticity of the basic structures, the branches. When you look at what has been achieved thus far, in building the organisation and in ensuring that the practices of the past — gatekeeping, fraudulent stamps and the use of paperwork that could be manipulated to exclude other people — it has cut a big load off the exclusion.

“At one point, when we were at 1 400 BGMs [branch general meetings], we only had four objections. This means that once you use this system … there is hardly anything to object on.”

Mchunu said the party had wanted to have completed 2 000 BGMs, but had only managed 1 600. They hoped to make up the backlog by the end of the weekend.

“We are approaching the deadline for BGMs at the weekend. We are not happy with the number of branches that have sat up until now,” he said.

Mchunu was not clear whether the ANC elections team would ask the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to extend the branch general meetings period. “I don’t want to talk about extensions. That depends on the people running the nomination process. I think if we have adequate numbers there will be no need.”

Mchunu said they had received a “few” complaints of “nomination along factional lines”.

“We hope that at branch level unity will prevail. We have received information and complaints from a few where things seem to have taken an unorganisational direction, but that will be of no consequence. We encourage people to abandon those practices. They are not taking us forward.”

A member of one of the KwaZulu-Natal regional executive committees said several nonexistent branches had been weeded out during the current branch general meetings process.

“Some of the branches are nonexistent. Conference killed many branches. Now that conference has come and gone, there are those that don’t exist,” he said.

He added that, although a bio-metric system scanning members’ fingerprints would have been foolproof, the new system of scanning ID documents works.

“It works as a tool to get rid of bogus branches because they can’t sit if they don’t have actual members who are in the Luthuli House system. The person’s ID has to be scanned and they have to sign the register. They should have gone further and scanned people’s thumbprints. You can give somebody your ID to use but you won’t cut off your thumb,” he said. Some branch general meetings had encountered problems in areas where the network on which the scanners worked had no coverage, so that Luthuli House had to allow manual recording. In others, the personnel with scanners had not arrived in time for the branch general meetings.

Not all is smooth sailing in KwaZulu-Natal, where the leadership that backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s failed bid for the ANC presidency last December has been replaced by a “unity” provincial executive committee.

In the Moses Mabhida region, which opposed the unity slate at the July provincial conference, branches this week marched on the ANC offices in Pietermaritzburg to demand that a regional conference be held.

The region is run by a regional task team, drawn from the two main ANC factions, but branches have revolted against a decision to hold the regional conference after the May elections.

Earlier this year, the NEC ruled that any conference that did not sit by the end of August should be held after the national elections to prevent internal elective battles from derailing the ANC election campaign.

The Moses Mabhida branches have threatened to go to court if they are not allowed to hold an elective conference by the end of this month.

There are also increasing tensions in the province between chairperson Sihle Zikalala, who previously led the Dlamini-Zuma camp in the province, and his former allies, who are enraged by his standing on a “unity” ticket.

READ MORE: ANC stands by audit and says ‘ghost’ members are real

As a result, eThekwini chairperson and Durban mayor Zandile Gumede and the ANC Women’s League in the province have already endorsed provincial treasurer Nomusa Dube-Ncube as the candidate for premier, rather than Zikalala or his deputy, Mike Mabuyakhulu. The province will send three names for premier nominee to Luthuli House at the end of its nominations process and Zikalala’s new enemies want to dislodge him from the number one spot.

“The rift is there,” said a member of the provincial executive committee who asked not to be named. “They are trying to dislodge Sihle, but have no mandate to do so as neither structure has discussed the matter at all.”

ANC provincial spokesperson Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the province was halfway through its BGMs and hoped to make up the backlog by the end of the weekend.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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