Don’t count Mabuyane out just yet, regional Eastern Cape ANC leader says

Lobbying ahead of the ANC provincial conference in the Eastern Cape has moved up a gear, with Chris Hani regional leader Wongama Gela hitting out at provincial chairperson contender Babalo Madikizela, calling him two-faced. 

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, Gela, who presides over current provincial chairperson Oscar Mabuyane’s home region, said he was confident that the conference in March would see the incumbent emerge victorious. 

Nelson Mandela Bay regional secretary Luyolo Nqakula rebuked Gela for his comments about Madikizela and accused him of suffering from “an overrated sense of self”.

Gela, who is lobbying other regions to get behind Mabuyane, argued that the party and the government was stable under the leadership of the current provincial ANC chairperson. 

“For the first time in a long time you can’t talk nationally without mentioning the role of the Eastern Cape. That is partly itself due to the leadership of Mabuyane. That is what we appreciate as one of the achievements of the provincial executive committee [PEC]. He worked with the collective but also he has been able to rally the entire PEC because of that work,” said Gela

There has been speculation in the media that Mabuyane, who is serving his first term, might lose his position when the province heads to its conference. This heightened when four regions — Nelson Mandela Bay, Joe Gqabi, Alfred Nzo and Amathole — each resolved in their conferences to support Madikizela. 

Another contender who recently raised his hand for the position as provincial chair is Mlibo Qoboshiyane. But Gela believes Mabuyane has the numbers on his side. 

Gela said Mabuyane had buy-in from the majority of branches in all eight ANC regions in the province. 

“We are coordinating a well oiled campaign and we have been receiving excellent reviews from almost all branches of the ANC. This is the view of the majority of branches. In

Chirs Hani region, almost 70% branches of ANC have convened general meetings and majority have nominated Mabuyane to lead provinces of the Eastern Cape. We are not talking as individuals, even branches are raising their own voice that Mabuyane must come back,” he said. 

Mabuyane has also received support from OR Tambo, the biggest ANC region in the Eastern Cape and second to eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal nationwide.

Gela said the majority of Eastern Cape branches he had interacted with were also of the view that the current provincial officials should be given another term to lead the party in the province, with the exception of Madikizela, who is the treasurer.

“That collective included Madikizela until he defined himself out of that collective.When we started this work, that collective included all top five members from the chairperson up to the provincial treasurer,” Gela said. 

Madikizela and Mabuyane were allies when they emerged from the 2017 provincial conference, dubbed the festival of chairs. The two men went on to support Cyril Ramaphosa in the 2017 Nasrec conference that elected him ANC president, although Madikizela had initially supported Zweli Mkhize as his preferred candidate. This changed on the eve of the Nasrec conference when Mkhize announced that he would stand aside and endorse Ramaphosa for party president. 

Slamming Madikizela this week, Gela said: “We believe in the four years he was working with officials his intention was to string them along and the intention was that on the eve of the provincial conference he would use them to announce a change of tune. That is how he is, that is how he has been operating. It’s just that this time around we have been fortunate to detect at least three month before the conference.” 

Calling Madikizela’s ambition to lead the province a betrayal, Gela said the regional leadership had had numerous discussions with him and Mabuyane in the lead-up to the party’s campaign season, with Madikizela indicating that he had no intention to stand for the top job. 

“We are a little aggrieved because they assured us that Madikizela would not contest. He even said he was not a chairperson material. It talks to betrayal and exposes him. He is not necessarily a principled person. Not a person who remains true to his commitments,” Gela said. 

Reacting to Gela, Nqakula — who is also Madikizela’s chief lobbyist — said there was a perception in the Chris Hani region of it being a super region and “all other regions must tiptoe on their views”.

“They are devoid of any politics which seek to take this province forward socially, economically and politically. Their interest is around consolidating the Chris Hani cabal. 

Madikizela can’t be accused of being a traitor because here we are talking about a term with a start and end date. There is no inherent position which anyone occupies,” Nqakula said.

“From where we are seated we know that they [the Mabuyane faction] are the majority in Chris Hani but we are comfortable with the support we are receiving.

“Members of ANC are not an extension of the view of Gela. We will not be made an extension of the Chris Hani cabal who think they can summon people to take tunes and directions around the direction of the province. We will see them in conference,” Nqakula added.

The Eastern Cape is likely to be the first province to take its branches to a provincial conference ahead of the ANC’s national elective conference in December this year.

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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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