/ 12 June 2021

New membership system encounters problems in ANC branches

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The party’s national disputes committee head, Nomvula Mokonyane, said they have identified that members have attempted to manipulate the system.

The ANC’s new registration system faces major hurdles, with branches complaining that some secretaries are trying to manipulate the system, resulting in several disqualifications.

This comes as several ANC regions are preparing to go to conferences. One of the regions has complained of a plot by some branch secretaries to manipulate the system in the Lower South Coast region. 

Some branches in the region — one of KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest after eThekwini  — have said that scanners used to verify members in good standing are being placed in the hands of those who favour the secretaries’ factions. 

A branch is allowed two scanners. Those in charge of the scanners are trained at Luthuli House and have the duty of scanning each member’s ID before the branch meets. These scanners are used to verify a member’s ID and their ANC membership.  

The ANC recently announced that more than 2 000 branch general meetings (BGMs) and branch biennial general meetings (BBGMs) have been held, and the process is ongoing. 

In his closing address, shortly after the last ANC national executive committee meeting in May, president Cyril Ramaphosa said this is the first time that most of the biennial general meetings were held on the new membership system and admitted that it had incurred some technical glitches. 

But he emphasised that the system has helped protect the integrity of the party’s key organisational processes.

Claims of serious manipulation of the ANC’s membership system first emerged ahead of its 2012 elective conference in Mangaung.

The run-up to the 54th ANC national conference at Nasrec in 2017 was marred by claims of widespread vote-rigging at general branch meetings ahead of regional and provincial conferences, with parallel branches mushrooming in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal in particular. 

The outcome of several provincial conferences — including KwaZulu-Natal and Free State — ahead of Nasrec were successfully challenged based on membership rigging, sparking the decision to digitise the membership system to prevent manipulation.

The party’s national disputes committee head, Nomvula Mokonyane, said they have identified that members have attempted to manipulate the system. 

She said in some cases, the identity documents of members who attend the branch general meetings and biennial meetings — meetings to elect branch executives committees and preferred candidates for regional conferences — are scanned more than once. 

As a result, hundreds of branch and biennial meetings have been disqualified and have had to be rerun. 

The new digital online system was introduced in 2019 to curb the party’s problems of gatekeeping but some members have been denied membership as a result, one party member in the Lower South Coast said. 

The branch member said she has witnessed how her branch secretary has stopped some people from registering. 

During a visit to the Lower South Coast, the Mail & Guardian found that those responsible for scanners abused this responsibility.

Mokonyane said this forms part of their investigation, adding that the committee has been made aware that some secretaries are using members who do not belong to a branch to verify members in meetings. This, she says, is not permitted. 

“In the quest of making branches the basic unit of dealing with membership, you unfortunately still have some branch secretaries who resist acceptance of ANC members into the system and people wait for long. 

“We see people coming and reporting at Luthuli House and we can pick up that members registration is still pending. We have also been made aware that comrades have been sitting with member forms and until now they have not loaded those comrades into the new membership system. Those that are said to be colluding, and where there is an allegation against anyone at local level, in provinces and regions, we investigate and we are investigating. 

“We have three investigations; two have been dealt with. We have one investigation that is pending. The first two exposed ill discipline of branch secretaries who take a long time to accept people into a branch,” she said.

Mokonyane added that branch secretaries got away with this because they are solely responsible for placing new members in their branch.  

The committee is currently dealing with secretaries who have wrongly allocated scanners to members from other branches, she said, adding that in some cases, these branch secretaries are emboldened by provincial secretaries 

“The provincial executive committee (PEC) has no right to change the users on behalf of a branch. And they have no right to inform Luthuli House on who to put and who not to put in charge of the scanner unless it’s a decision of a branch. 

“You can’t use a scanner of a branch away from that branch. The QR code registers the venue and the time of the meeting so when you have somebody else being issued a scanner, that person can’t use that scanner outside of where the branch is meeting.” 

The M&G previously reported how branches in the Lower South Coast were warning national leaders at Luthuli House that the situation in their region could affect the selection of ward council candidates. 

The ANC has given branches until 13 June to finalise their candidate list. Each branch was tasked with selecting four candidates to go through a cycle of vetting by citizens before its list was submitted to the provincial executive committee.

Mokonyane said that although the system has had some glitches, it was effective in the Northern Cape. Some of the regions the ANC is looking at for the system to pass the test is the OR Tambo region in the Eastern Cape and some regions in Limpopo, which are due for conferences. 

Her biggest headaches are in the Western Cape and Lower South Coast , which she says have fallen behind in adapting to the system, with the latter the weakest in terms of compliance. 

“There are a number of branches that get disqualified. It does concern [us] and we have identified the problem where comrades don’t follow the proper process. What we have asked is that comrades convene a pre-BGM [branch general meeting], download a membership list, and let everybody check if they are on the system. 

“Then you allow yourselves a seven-day period between the pre-BGM and the BGM so that everybody can be informed. On the day of the meeting, don’t use the membership list; download the register, which is that of members in good standing, and then get scanned. 

“We have periodic meetings where we pick up these issues and send circulars to remind comrades because once you skip one stage, the whole thing gets compromised.”