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Limpopo - President Jacob Zuma’s supporters allegedly held Julius Malema’s confidant, Limpopo ANC Youth League secretary Jacob Lebogo hostage, threatening “to kill” him at the aborted provincial general council this week, and manhandled him before he was whisked away.
This happened hardly 24 hours after the North West ANC provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge was shot at in what is suspected to be an assassination attempt as the battle for the leadership of the ruling party intensifies ahead of the conference in Mangaung.
The Limpopo incident was triggered by a group, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with President Jacob Zuma’s pictures, storming the venue in Polokwane and disrupting a conference that was convened to nominate candidates for the top six positions in the ruling party.
They hurled bricks and stones at the hall where some delegates were seated. Some members of the crowd accused Lebogo and provincial ANC secretary Soviet Lekganyane of having fiddled with audited membership lists to boost Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s chances of deposing Zuma.
Lebogo’s assault happened as the conference degenerated into chaos, with ANC security members unleashing pepper spray at the unruly crowd.
The scuffle broke out at the gate to the lodge shortly after 10pm on Friday and spilled into the venue.
Pandemonium erupted after police had pulled out allegedly at the instruction of police top brass in the province. Lebogo, Lekganyane and a Zuma supporter, who was present, confirmed on Friday that the youth leader was held hostage and assaulted.
Lebogo added that the “hooligans” threatened to kill him because they realised the majority of the branches supported Motlanthe.
“We have numbers and people are scared. It was a rented mob and hooligans led by people who always lose conferences. They said I am not going to survive, they will kill me,” Lebogo said.
He said his attackers were trying to impose themselves on the ANC after being rejected by the branches.
A Zuma supporter, who asked not to be named because he did not want to implicate himself, confirmed that Lebogo was beaten up.
“We found Lebogo stuck in the traffic and beat him up, thinking he was running away with conference documents, only to find he was not.
“ANC security then fired pepper spray after we broke the gate,” said the source.
Another Zuma lobbyist said Lekganyane and other Limpopo ANC leaders caused the conference to be disrupted by swapping delegates and including branches that did not pass audit. “In my view the PEC disrupted the conference because they are the ones who steered the conference to chaos,” he said.
Lekganyane accused former Limpopo ANC secretary Joe Maswanganyi and a Zuma lobbyist Boy Mamabolo, of having led the group of “hooligans” who stormed the venue.
“The meeting was disrupted by Joe Maswanganyi and Philemon Mdaka. They stormed the venue and Joe presided over a meeting of hooligans and they said they were nominating the top six. Boy said ‘Zuma’, and Joe said, ‘any seconder?’ They were all wearing Zuma T-shirts. The nomination was not in their favour. The reason why they were disrupting is that they lied to people that they will deliver Limpopo and spent a lot of money printing T-shirts and buying food,” Lekganyane said.
Mamabolo and Mdaka dismissed the allegations, saying Lekganyane falsely accused them because they had stood up against tricks aimed at excluding them and stealing the election.
Maswanganyi yesterday rejected claims that he disrupted the conference as an attempt to divert attention from the legitimacy crisis faced by the provincial council.
Mdaka said “he was not anywhere near that place”. He added that the people Maswanganyi addressed were delegates, not hooligans.
Mamabolo denied that he stormed the venue, saying Lekganyane and other provincial executives hated him because he was openly anti-Malema.
Lekganyane said the conference would re-convene on Sunday.
Liberty Mmela, a Zuma supporter and provincial secretary of the MK Military Veterans Association blamed the chaos on the ANC provincial leaders. He said they instigated divisions by trying to dictate to branches to nominate Motlanthe during branch general meetings held earlier.
“When they realised that branches don’t support Kgalema, they fled with roll-calls and they held their own branch meetings to nominate bogus delegates at night,” said Mmela.
But ANC provincial spokesman Makonde Mathivha said the attendance registers were verified by ANC national team that has been deployed to the province, and Luthuli House was responsible for validating delegates’ credentials.