Eastern Cape conference exposes dicey ANC electoral system

The ANC’s use of money set aside for its elective conferences has again taken centre stage after Eastern Cape chairperson contender Babalo Madikizela encouraged delegates belonging to his slate to “take the money but do the right thing”. 

This comes as the party’s heavy hitters are involved in last-minute negotiations on possible slates which might present an uncontested conference. 

During a late-night caucus with the hundreds of delegates that were in attendance, Madikizela raised eyebrows when he called the Oscar Mabuyane slate “part of the establishment” even though he has held a position as MEC for public works in the province as well as provincial treasurer in Mabuyane’s term. 

“They are the have’s. Twelve years comrades are no child’s play when you are in charge. Where can we get the money? We don’t have. They have money, they have everything. Take the money but do the right thing,” Madikizela said.

The use of money came into sharp focus after the ANC’s 2017 Nasrec national conference when it emerged that the Cyril Ramaphosa campaign had allegedly used close to R1-billion to put him in the top seat.

The 2017 campaign for the presidency of the ANC, and ultimately the leadership of the country, was one of the most closely fought in South Africa’s democracy.

In a leaked recording that emerged in late 2021, Ramaphosa was heard addressing national executive committee (NEC) members about the funding of his 2017 campaign, telling them he would rather have his campaign investigated than “some campaigns”, to avoid further embarrassment to the ANC.

“We also know as ANC cadres that, in some cases, state money has been used in some campaigns. We know that we will not talk about it, to the extent comrade Tony [Yengeni], where some comrades even said that, ‘well, let’s investigate all campaigns and not just one’,’’ Ramaphosa said in the recording.

Political analyst Ongama Mtika said Madikizela’s comments went to the core of the problems raised by former president Thabo Mbeki on the quality of ANC party members.

The problem also lies in the way campaigning is done in the party, Mtika said: “There could never be a renewal which did not go to the core of the processes that determine the election selection in the party.” 

He said the ANC’s renewal programme was dragging its feet because leaders were slow to follow their own process, adding that the ANC did not lack the organisational material to come up with criteria for leadership. 

“Criteria for a member have been there. It was implied in the liberation days but was quantified in Through The Eye of a Needle [document]. At the Mangaung conference, there was a discussion document on leadership renewal,” Mtika said. 

“All of those prescribe a particular kind of leader. All they simply need to do was enforce  criteria that no leader is going to be considered duly nominated if they don’t pass the criteria as expressly stated in the leadership literature of the party.” 

He said the ANC had enough sense to apply the leadership criteria in its selection of council members but failed to do so elsewhere. Part of the problem, Mtika said, was the party’s archaic campaign system which did not afford members a fair chance to seek leadership positions. 

“Because it’s not done in the open you have got dangerous tactics that are used. People are campaigning but not campaigning so money is used,” the analyst said.

Madikizela has called the conference the most important in the history of the ANC in the Eastern Cape.

At least 40 national executive committee members with a vested interest in the outcomes of the conference are expected to arrive in the province this weekend. The race for a national ANC top-six position will also be contingent on who wins the provincial race, with Ronald Lamola, Paul Mashatile and Enoch Godongwana all shopping to get the backing of the Eastern Cape. 

The Mail & Guardian has been reliably informed by lobbyists from both slates that it will likely be a neck-and-neck race for chairperson between Madikizela and Mabuyane. 

One lobbyist said what would probably affect the odds would be the decision that the provincial task team makes around the WD Rubusana and Chris Hani regions which together have 47 branches that could be condoned and quarantined from the conference. 

The branches which support Mabuyane are said to constitute  over 100 voting delegates. The issue of branches was raised by former provincial secretary turned task team coordinator Lulama Ngcukayitobi on Wednesday evening in a letter to the ANC officials, citing their unfair exclusion from the conference. 

One insider who spoke to the M&G said that a meeting between officials, which included Jessie Duarte, Mashatile and Ramaphosa, was deadlocked on whether the branches should be allowed to vote. 

The insider, who has intimate knowledge of the meeting, said that Mashatile was against the inclusion of these branches while Ramaphosa felt they should be condoned. 

The branches have been under investigation following allegations of manipulation during branch general meetings. 

Sources said that Mashatile heard that in the Chris Hani region 31 branches were disqualified while in Dr WD Rubusana 22 fell to the same fate due to membership manipulation. 

On 11 April the national disputes resolution committee ordered a re-run of at least four branch general meetings in Dr WD Rubusana after it found that deceased members were registered to attend meetings. 

One insider alleged the Mabuyane grouping is hoping that the ANC will allow the affected branches to vote during the conference to boost their numbers. 

The two regions are believed to represent part of the core Mabuyane support. It is anticipated that if left out it could diminish his chances of making a comeback as chair of the Eastern Cape conference.

Mabuyane is believed to have the majority of support of the ANC Women’s League and the Veterans League. Insiders say that the Mabuyane camp also enjoys support in the provincial task team which will have voting rights on Saturday.

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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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