The ANC in the Western Cape has started its term as the official opposition in the province on the backfoot.
Factionalism and alleged disgruntlement in the ANC’s provincial offices, situated in downtown Cape Town, stem from the party’s poor performance in the provincial election. Unhappiness over seat deployments has also created tension.
The ANC recorded its worst defeat in a Western Cape provincial election in history, securing only 28% of the vote.
The cracks began to show just days before the polls, when the party accepted a R1-million donation from businessman Iqbal Survé for logistical support for volunteers on election day.
A day later, an instruction came for the donation to be returned. But by then money had already been distributed to ANC regions in the province. Last week, the party’s provincial treasurer Maurencia Gillion was suspended by the provincial working committee (PWC) for her role in securing that donation.
A day later, the provincial executive committee (PEC) overturned that decision, reinstating Gillion. Instead, it was provincial communications head Lionel Adendorf who was relieved of his duties.
On Thursday, Adendorf approached the Western Cape high court to have the PEC’s resolution nullified. His application was struck off the court roll.
“The call remains for unity and renewal that has been outlined by the President, and it is something that I will strive towards… We have deployed people through our internal democracy processes. There are some members who are not happy. That’s done and dusted now,” ANC provincial secretary Faiz Jacobs said.
While party members shy away from pinpointing what the exact root of the divisions are, Jacobs admits that contestation for the provincial elective conference has already begun.
The party has not had a permanent provincial chairperson since Marius Fransman was suspended from the party in 2016, while facing sexual harassment allegations.
Jacobs said that while some ANC members are unhappy about seats on election lists, the anticipation of an elective conference is growing.
“A provincial conference is coming. We’re going to ensure we have it free and fair and have branches decide who they want as their elected leadership. We must play by the rules. We must have high discipline. But we are seeing people getting out of the blocks before the start,” he said.
Cameron Dugmore, the newly appointed leader of the opposition in the Western Cape Legislature, said ongoing infighting will ultimately cost the party its chance of regaining the province.
He said it needs a united front to challenge the Democratic Alliance (DA) at municipal elections in 2021. This is especially true in the City of Cape Town where the DA holds a two-thirds majority of seats.
“We cannot afford to go back to an era of factionalism that destroys our opportunity to rebuild on this 28 percent. Which is two percent higher than the local government elections, but is two percent lower than the national elections,” Dugmore said.
The veteran provincial legislator has expressed his willingness, in the past, to stand for provincial chairperson. Meanwhile, former premier and ambassador to the US Ebrahim Rasool has turned down his seat in the legislature.
Rasool, who was the party’s provincial campaign chief, said he wants to concentrate on the global stage, and drive foreign investment in the local economy.
“When I was asked to lead the election campaign, it was never with the intention to return to the legislature, but simply to help stem the ANC’s slide in Province and rebuild trust and excitement behind the Renewal Project headed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in the Western Cape. Anything more would be a bonus,” he said in a statement.