The ANC in Limpopo has shown consistent growth in membership, increasing its numbers by 20 173 since its last audit in 2018 and making the province more crucial to those eyeing top positions ahead of the party’s December conference.
This was contained in the organisational report compiled by former provincial secretary Soviet Lekganyane ahead of Limpopo’s provincial elective conference this weekend.
The report shows that the Vhembe region has grown substantially from 25 729 members in 2018 to 33 710 by January. Another region that has grown significantly is Norman Mashabane, which increased its membership from 23 950 in 2018 to 31 401 by January.
The Sekhukhune region, which is home to newly re-elected provincial chairperson Stan Mathabatha, was the only region to see a decline in membership numbers, from 21 599 to 19 616.
Lekganyane said the province had moved up from its position as the fifth biggest at the ANC’s previous conference at Nasrec in 2017, to settle into a comfortable number three spot. This move means the province will have a significant say in the leadership debate ahead of this year’s December conference.
Lekganyane wrote in the report that at the time of last November’s local government elections and heading to its elective conference, Limpopo had the second biggest membership in the ANC. Although Limpopo has surpassed the Eastern Cape in terms of membership numbers, Lekganyane said that in terms of wards, the province still trails behind the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
The report lauded the Vhembe region for its stability over the past 10 years, which contributed to bringing an 86% victory and 100 000 new voters during South Africa’s last national elections in 2019. Vhembe garnered more than 70% of votes for the ANC in the 2021 local government elections, with the Thumamela local municipality registering an 85%.
This means Vhembe has increased its membership, beating Eastern Cape’s OR Tambo region as the second biggest in the party but behind eThekwini region in KwaZulu-Natal.
Vhembe’s growth is important for the region to strengthen its position in the provincial and national leadership contests. Even if power players such as Danny Msiza try to agitate against the party’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, Vhembe would probably be unwilling to go up against the president because of tribal dynamics in the ANC.
The growth of Limpopo’s membership will surely boost Mathabatha’s ambition to be elected the ANC’s national chairperson in December. Limpopo has become a powerbroker, with players in the national leadership battle lobbying for support from the province.
As previously reported by the M&G, ANC treasurer general Paul Mashatile has been touted as the province’s preferred candidate for the deputy president position. Mashatile’s popularity in Limpopo was evident this weekend when delegates sang songs signalling their endorsement of his campaign.
Msiza, an ally of Mashatile, has maintained support for Ramaphosa for a second term but a source in his inner circle said the party’s amended step-aside rule had the potential to tilt the scales towards disgraced former health minister Zweli Mkhize.
Msiza was barred from entering the race for provincial secretary after the national executive committee reinforced the step-aside resolution to ensure that those facing criminal charges could not contest party elections.
“I hope when they [Ramaphosa’s allies] were doing it, they also calculated. It’s clear that this decision is directed at us. It’s like you keep courting a girl but she tells you she doesn’t want you, you are not her type, this means that you must look for another girl,” the Limpopo insider said.
“This is not just in politics, it’s in all facets of life. We all must lie on the bed we prepare for ourselves. If necessary, we will fold our arms and let the branches decide. This is the worst thing they could have done. They have committed suicide because Limpopo is slipping through their fingers.”
Another former Mkhize ally who is said to be facing rejection from the Ramaphosa faction is the Eastern Cape’s Babalo Madikizela. Although he lost to Oscar Mabuyane as provincial chair, Madikizela still has the support of some regions, which could make Ramaphosa uncomfortable at the December conference.