Politics/ 13 December 2022, 09:42am / Staff Writer
ANC member holding a flag:image supplied
Bloemfontein: Tensions in the ANC Free State are seen as a serious precursor to violence and possible loss of lives, according to the organisation’s top brass.
The ANC in the Free State has lagged behind throughout the year in terms of conference preparations. Factional battles have persisted, and even with the intervention of former president Thabo Mbeki, the province under the leadership of Interim Provincial Committee (IPC) convener Mxolisi Dukwana has not managed to keep a tight grip on its members.
According to the National Working Committee (NWC) report distributed at the meeting of the ANC’s top brass on Friday, it was recommended that the province be supported by the National Executive Committee (NEC) broader structures to have “a political management programme to defuse the tension and create a conducive environment for unity and renewal”.
Discussing “the recent escalation of tensions in the province, especially in the Mangaung region, and the violent disruption of the IPC meeting held on the 6th December 2022”, it said: “The tension is a serious precursor for violence and possibility of loss of lives as witnessed in other high-risk provinces. This incident must be fully investigated.”
This comes after members of the embattled Mangaung and Lejweleputswa regions ambushed IPC members during their meeting, demanding that their issues be addressed.
Allegations against some members of Ward 1 in Mangaung were exposed on social media. Members were caught using an app which generates barcodes from identity numbers taken from relevant attendance registers.
In wards 27 and 30, attendance registers allegedly contained signatures of deceased persons and members who were not present at the meeting.
The ANC’s head office had set up an inquiry task team led by Bheki Nkosi to probe the allegations of fraud and manipulation of branch meetings in Mangaung and Maluti-a-Phofung subregions. At the time of the conference, the investigation had not concluded its work.
However, documents contained in the NWC report state that the Mangaung Interim Regional Committee decided to go ahead with the conference despite all these factors.
“There were arguments for and against the idea of the Mangaung regional conference having to sit whilst there were still disputes that were referred to the IPC by the provincial disciplinary structure.
“As the Regional Conference of Mangaung was taking place… it was reported that there was a parallel Regional Conference that was convened at the President Hotel in Bloemfontein by other members of the same Interim Regional Committee. The ANC members who convened this conference are believed to be those whose disputes were not addressed. It is also alleged that some of the IPC members were present at the same Conference held at President Hotel,” according to the report.
The Lejweleputswa region held its conference on the same weekend as Mangaung where there was a protest by a group of people who claimed to represent some branches. These members alleged that they had been sidelined and not allowed to participate in the conference.
It was believed that there was an intention to apply for a court interdict for the regional conference not to proceed as scheduled, and a formal report about the matter was requested and is still awaited.
ANC’s January 8th celebrations
The ANC’s anniversary celebrations are set to take place in the Free State in January, which means the interim leadership will have to ensure that events run smoothly even as they face a crisis.
“Concerns have been raised regarding political instability in the province and the impact that this might have on the success of this critical event taking place almost immediately after the 55th National Conference.
“Notwithstanding these concerns, it was concluded that the event should be held in Mangaung, and that all efforts must be made to ensure mobilisation for a successful event,” the NWC report reads.
IPC spokesperson Oupa Khoabane says NEC members led by Pinky Moloi are assisting them in dealing with aggrieved party members. The IPC and NEC deployees to the province will hold a meeting this week to seek a way forward.
“For the ANC’s celebration, we have to find a way to manage the situation. We are working hard to bring in NEC members under one roof and talk about the issues, especially regarding Mangaung,” Khoabane said.
The celebrations take place from 3 to 8 January 2023. The ANC president is supposed to deliver the statement on behalf of the party on the last day.
The party is yet to decide whether it will be an indoor event, with approximately 5,000 people, to be held at the Christian Reformed Church or the city hall. The other option is outdoors at the Kaizer Sebothelo Stadium in Botshabelo, with a capacity of between 18,000 to 22,000.
Provincial and national conferences
For now, the Free State will be holding its conference next year as it has been unable to reach the 70% threshold as per the party’s rules.
A report dated 8 December 2022 and written by IPC co-ordinator Paseka Nompondo states that it is “highly impossible for the ANC in Free State to hold its provincial conference in 2022”.
The progress report further says: “Given that the province has not reached at least 70% threshold of 223 branches out of the 319 branches, we will not be convening a conference within the adopted ANC Conference guidelines.
Therefore, the conference should be convened next year pending those processes to be followed and the resolution of the 53 disputes that were referred to the IPC by the PDRC. The IPC should focus solely on the 55th National Conference and on the January 8 2023 [anniversary celebrations].”
The names of Dukwana, Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela, former Mangaung mayor Thabo Manyoni and former legislature chief whip Vusi Tshabalala have been mentioned for the top job.
The Free State will send 252 delegates from 212 branches as well as 18 IPC members and 10 regional delegates to the governing party’s national conference. However, financial constraints have started creeping in for the province.
“While working out the logistics to get those delegates to the national conference, we as a province have limited resources in terms of finance… we are still trying all avenues to pull resources from across the province,” said Nompondo.
The ANC national conference, where the new leadership of the party will be elected, will take place from Friday until next Tuesday.