Eastern Cape regional conferences pit Mabuyane and Madikizela against each other

The Babalo Madikizela faction is gaining momentum in the Eastern Cape as regional conferences continue, but those in his camp say this will likely not affect President Cyril Ramaphosa’sa chances for a second term.

Party insiders in the province, however, say that although Ramaphosa may not need to worry — even as Madikizela’s chances of successfully contesting the post of Eastern Cape chairperson at an elective conference set for March increase — that is not so for current ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe. Madikizela’s advance, they say, could spell doom for Mantashe’s ambition for the second highest office in the governing party — that of deputy president.

Outgoing Eastern Cape chairperson Oscar Mabuyane indicated in August that he would run for a second term. He leads one of the ANC’s biggest provinces, after KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. Winning over ANC delegates and branches as the governing party heads to its 55th national conference next year — alongside other Ramaphosa allies such as ANC KwaZulu-Natal secretary, Mdumiseni Ntuli, and his Limpopo counterpart, Soviet Lekganyane — would guarantee Ramaphosa a second term in office. 

Mabuyane’s faction in the Eastern Cape was, however, dealt a heavy blow when those aligned to Madikizela emerged as victors last week after the Joe Gqabi and the Amathole regions sat for conference. Amathole is largely controlled by Madikizela’s close ally and friend Terris Ntuthu. 

Mabuyane’s camp gained an early victory in the OR Tambo ANC region, the second biggest nationally after eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal. Although OR Tambo is said to be firmly under the control of Mabuyane and his allies, he does have some powerful detractors there, including former regional chairperson Xolile Nkompela. 

Kompela’s faction was, however, unable to contest the regional conference last week because of suspensions, meaning that the Mabuyane faction, led by Mesuli Ngqondwana, ran largely uncontested. The OR Tambo region controls more than 140 delegates, who will likely nominate Mabuyane for a second term. 

The conference in Amathole, the second biggest region in the Eastern Cape, with 120 branches, is said to have tilted the scales in favour of Madikizela. Mabuyane has also fallen out of favour with Buffalo City regional chairperson Phumlani Mkolo, who was called on to step aside after the National Prosecuting Authority reinstated charges against him and 14 others in a scandal linked to Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

The third-biggest Eastern Cape region, with 107 branches, Alfred Nzo, is where Madikizela first emerged on the political stage. The region negotiated with Mabuyane’s slate for the urban planner to emerge and he was ultimately catapulted from being relatively unknown into a provincial power broker.

Madikizela’s allies in Nelson Mandela Bay, including his key lieutenant, task team co-ordinator Luyolo Nqakula, are said to be optimistic about wresting the region from Mabuyane when it goes to conference next year.

Nelson Mandela Bay, with at least 65 branches, is also home to former ANC youth league deputy president Andile Lungisa — a staunch ally of suspended secretary general Ace Magashule — who is hoping to enlist Madikizela in exposing cracks in the Ramaphosa camp come the national elective conference. 

The win by Madikizela’s faction in Joe Gqabi region gained him 45 branches ahead of the provincial conference, in which Chris Hani, a region with 116 branches, expected to elect those aligned to Mabuyane, will also be a vital player. The Sarah Baartman region, with about 40 branches, is also said to be firmly behind Mabuyane. 

Mabuyane said he believed the current provincial leadership with him at the helm had put the once-divided Eastern Cape on a more stable footing. 

“If it’s not broken, why do you fix it? As long as people are still available to serve when they are nominated,” he said.

“All of us will be nominated, if possible, by branches. If we are not nominated that would not mean we must go around and fight with every­one. I’ve done my part; I’ve been in the leadership of the province for almost 12 years, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

“As long as I still have the energy to wake up and look at my people and see their situation, and believe that there is still a bit of energy to change their lives, I will forever be available to do so and serve our people,” Mabuyane added.

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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