Just days before former president Kgalema Motlanthe would present a chilling report to the national executive committee (NEC) on the rot caused by factional battles in the ANC, regional leaders in the Limpopo provinces attempted to influence him to change the candidate selection to favour supporters of President Cyril Ramaphosa, known as the CR17 faction.
In leaked audio heard by the Mail & Guardian, ANC regional leaders in Limpopo attempted to influence Motlanthe, in his capacity as head of the party’s electoral committee, and the committee’s national list coordinator Chief Livhuwani Matsila to continue with regional elections and place Ramaphosa’s faction ahead of the so-called radical economic transformation (RET) forces in the proportional council (PR) list.
The ANC has in the past chosen its mayoral candidates from its list of PR councillors. Those at the top of the PR lists are considered first in line to be candidates for mayoral positions in the party.
The meeting, organised by the ANC Veterans League, included an agenda item to discuss the mayoral selection of the Capricorn district and the Fetakgomo-Tubatse municipality, the strength of the RET forces and the branches heading to regional conferences in Vhembe and Sekhukhune regions.
In the recording, former Limpopo agriculture MEC Jacob Marule is heard saying that he believed that regional conferences need to take place as the provincial executive committee does not exist.
“We are being run by thugs and it’s a big challenge to us,” Marule told the former president.
ANC regional secretary of Vhembe District, advocate Anderson Mudunungu appealed to Montlathe to reinstate regional conferences as the region was “hanging”, adding that there was huge outcry from branches as regional executive committees (RECs) had overstayed their constitutional mandate.
The NEC on 13 September suspended regional and provincial conferences ahead of the local government elections, calling on all structures to focus all efforts on the elections. In a letter to provincial secretaries, ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said that all branch general meetings should be put on hold until 1 November, when the country goes to the polls.
Mudunungu, however, warned Motlanthe that this would have negative implications for the ANC and would result in disputes.
“Branches say that we are going for a very important local government election and among those in the REC are people who still have a VBS [Mutual Bank corruption saga] stigma, which is still very strong in the region and most of the branches are not very confident they will get a fair hearing or be deployed correctly. We need to stabilise Vhembe, otherwise Comrade President you are going to have a lot of disputes thereafter.”
He suggested that the NEC should take over the selection of mayoral candidates in regions whose term had expired, “because we can see that there are going to be many challenges”.
One of the participants at the Veterans League meeting, Rakgadi Machaba from the Peter Mokaba region, complained to Motlanthe that the RET faction had been “deployed to Polokwane municipality and Polokwane municipality was the only municipality serving the CR17 forces and now we are left with nothing.”
“I have to remind you that this list that is adopted, from the top ten, none of the CR17 members are there. We are asking ourselves if we are just allowing the municipality to be run by RET forces while we have capable members that are able to do that … We are pleading that they will stabilise the RET forces.
“When you give all municipalities to the RET forces, what will happen to the branches of CR17? We will be left with nothing. You are telling us while we have worked so hard to make sure that the branches are able to be active. You have demoralised us by just deploying the RET forces. What did we do wrong that you don’t see the members of CR17? We have won branches, wards, nominations,” she said.
During an NEC meeting last week, Motlanthe told the party leaders that factional battles were cumbersome in the selection of council candidates and resolving disputes.
Presenting the electoral committee report on Friday, Motlanthe told the NEC that most, and probably all, disputes lodged with the provincial list committees are due to factional battles manifesting themselves at ward levels and driven by factional leaders at senior levels of the organisation.
He added that comrades who seem to believe that they have proximity to the president often label others as RET forces to push their own personal agendas while entrenching divisions in the ANC.
“It is apparent that even senior leaders of the movement including some NEC members, ministers and deputy ministers shamelessly and very openly pronounce their allegiance to a particular faction during their political and government work.”
Motlanthe said he was disturbed by the meeting presented under the pretext of a meeting with the Veterans League, adding that it became clear that this meeting was being abused to lobby for certain comrades to occupy mayoral positions in the Capricorn district.
“As the regional secretary presented his case, it became clear that the electoral committee was also being lobbied for the Vhembe regional conference to take place before the forthcoming local government elections. Both the Veterans League and their associates in the meeting were accusing other senior ANC comrades of being RET forces or ‘VBS’ and proudly declaring themselves as the CR17 forces. The factional postures and sentiments expressed at the meeting left us deeply shocked, disappointed and extremely unhappy. We had to set the record straight and denounced factional tendencies while urging the veterans to play a unifying role in the province,” he said.
ANC Veterans League deputy provincial secretary Phiroane Phala, who chaired that meeting, told the M&G that the language used during the meeting was not in line with the principles of the Veterans League and that the structure of ANC elders distanced itself from the factional language that was used during the meeting.
“We totally distance ourselves from the language. We are not factional, our allegiance is the organisation. I regret that I did not intervene. I take full responsibility for that,” Phala said.
The leaked audio comes weeks after two people were shot and 16 injured during meetings in Limpopo’s Waterberg region. This compelled the ANC in Waterberg to call off all its activities in the Lephalale sub-region until security is stabilised.
Waterberg regional spokesperson Matome Taueatsoala described the incident as resembling the storyline of a Hollywood movie, saying that they received reports that the attackers followed their victims to the Witpoort Hospital, where nurses and doctors had to run “for dear life”.
Earlier this month, Professor Alfred Nevhutanda who chairs the provincial list committee in Limpopo, told the M&G that they had raised concerns over the factional battles being the root cause of disputes in the province.
“When these disputes come, you find that the factions have penetrated to branches, sometimes some of the disputes will arrive late, maybe because they are hidden and a certain faction doesn’t like how it has been raised. There were times we would knock off at 2am,” he said.
The ANC Youth League in Vhembe has called for the suspension of Mudunungu from the regional executive committee saying that his statements were “counterrevolutionary and anti-ANC”.