Oscar Mabuyane, the former provincial chair turned provincial task team convenor after the structure was dissolved by the ANC, confirmed that a special provincial working task team meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday to discuss the conference.
“We said that the conference can only go ahead when all outstanding disputes have been resolved. We have a court order now against us from WB Rubusana [region], which said ANC must resolve all outstanding disputes, so we are in a litigious environment.
“Even now we received an attempt at litigation that we begin to question. We would have loved to have the conference going but we actually work with national, step by step, to resolve every dispute because we don’t want to go to a conference that can’t adopt credentials. We don’t want our conference to be stuck with credentials, we want to resolve every issue so that branches can be given a chance to reconvene so that they meet every requirement according to guidelines.”
Mabuyane added that the provincial leaders are doing everything in their power to ensure that the conference goes ahead.
The Eastern Cape has postponed its conference twice before. It is expected to be a titanic clash between Mabuyane and Babalo Madikizela.
Mabuyane is said to have the backing of his home region in Chris Hani, with the biggest region, OR Tambo, also expected to back him, while Madikizela has been endorsed by four regions.
The ANC in the province was recently caught with its pants down when disgruntled members won a court action against the WD Rubusana regional conference.
Ondela Sokomani, One of the disgruntled five who spoke to the Mail & Guardian, alleged that part of the problem in his region was the inflating of branch member numbers. He said that in some cases, the names of deceased ANC members have been used and some branches have used identity documents of incarcerated people to ensure they reach a quorum.
Sokomani succeeded in preventing the region from holding the conference after the disbandment of branches in 12 wards by the provincial secretary, Lulama Ngcukayitobi.
In the court application, Sokomani argued that the decision to dissolve the branch executive committees was procedurally unfair and therefore unlawful because the branches and regions were not notified of the impending decision, and nor were they consulted before it occurred.
Mabuyane said the issue of manipulating numbers had long been raised at the national level, and that Chirs Hani and WB Rubusana regions were the biggest culprits. The former provincial chair expressed frustration, saying that national leaders at the ANC headquarters (Luthuli House) “took longer to resolve these issues because we noticed member manipulation since last year”.
Those aligned to Madikisela said the possible postponement of the conference was part of a plan by those in Mabuyane’s camp to gain numbers.
The Madikizela camp has been touted as the firm favourite to emerge victorious at the conference.
Regional secretaries aligned with Madikizela also weighed in on the possible postponement. Nelson Mandela Bay secretary Luyolo Nqakula said: “As far as we know as a region, the conference is on the 22nd. We as a region know that the conference is in East London so it is now news to us that there are talks of postponement. It is quite surprising but we’ll wait for proper organisational communication and interact with that from there.”
Alfred Nzo regional secretary Polelo Mohale said it would be “un-ANC” for individuals to decide “in corners” whether the conference should be postponed, and insisted that a provincial executive task team (PETT) meeting must be convened, adding that the provincial working task team (PWTT) did not have the powers to make such a decision.
“The PWTT is a subcommittee of the PETT so it can’t make the decision, it can only recommend. They don’t have power to postpone or alter anything that we have agreed on so far as the conference is concerned. We are worried that in this project of renewal when we have people because of their proximity and also understanding that we remain on what we know that the numbers are not on their side. So they will try everything to postpone. Unfortunately, this date was confirmed by the PETT, so they can’t just change it. It will be wrong and it will send a message which is against the renewal of the ANC in the province,” Mohale added.
Joe Gqabi’s counterpart, Vikita Dontsa, said there was a standing decision that the conference was sitting, and added that they should receive a report on the state of readiness.
But Mabuyane said that since he was elected in 2009 as the provincial secretary, the province has never held a conference late. He added that on most occasions, the province would conduct an early conference before its time expired.
“Even on this one, we were ready to go in September but because of elections we could not. We are not used to this environment of being in the referee’s spare time, because we have inculcated a culture of responsibility, a culture of sticking to the constitution of the ANC …”
Mabuyane said Luthuli House must also play its part by giving a statement of the final verification report.
“We have received all verification reports so far, we are way above 70%,” he added.
The ANC has been plagued by court challenges in the past, most notably before the Nasrec 2017 conference that saw President Cyril Ramaphosa emerge as party leader.
Violence in the Eastern Cape, forced the suspension of branch general meetings in March in the Nelson Mandela Bay and Dr WB Rubusana regions.
Of the eight regions, two have not held conferences — Sarah Baartman and WB Rubusana. The Chris Hani region will have 222 delegates, holding some sway in the provincial conference later.
WB Rubusana will have 152 delegates and Sarah Baartman will be represented by 101 delegates. In Nelson Mandela Bay 101 delegates will represent the voting bloc; there will be 88 delegates for Joe Gqabi; Amathole will have 224; and OR Tambo will have the lion’s share of 348 delegates.
The Alfred Nzo region will have 205 voting delegates.
A total of 651 branches and 1 441 delegates have already been approved to attend the provincial conference.