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Johannesburg - An armed gang wearing T-shirts bearing President Jacob Zuma’s face stormed an ANC branch meeting and allegedly threatened to shoot frightened members if they did not nominate the ANC leader for re-election in Mangaung.
The incident happened at the Thomas Nkobi branch in Rondebult, near Spruitview, Ekurhuleni, on Sunday.
According to eyewitnesses, the group – whose members claimed they were from the ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) – manhandled perceived supporters of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and brandished guns before forcing members of the branch to sing pro-Zuma songs.
Sbongile Ntlonti was among the people who were intimidated. He told The Star that the gang, which comprised nine men and a woman, intimidated branch members suspected of being anti-Zuma.
They included an MP whose name is known to The Star but cannot be revealed for legal reasons.
Ntlonti said the MP started taking pictures on his cellphone of anyone seen as part of the “Forces of Change” and forced them to support the “Zuma for second term” call.
“That’s when the argument started. Then the shoving and pushing followed. We almost exchanged blows. It was a very intense confrontation,” said Ntlonti.
When the commotion was over, a group saying they were members of MKMVA arrived singing pro-Zuma songs and confronted the group believed to be aligned to the “Forces for Change”, claiming they had attacked those in the Zuma camp.
When The Star contacted MKMVA provincial secretary Thandi Mashoala, she said: “I don’t know anything about that.”
ANC Gauteng spokesman Nkenke Kekana confirmed the incident and said investigations were under way. He said the party had already received a complaint in connection with the gang’s terror.
He also said they were aware that there was an MP who was involved. “We are going to talk to that MP. We can’t allow people who are trying to destabilise the ANC. We have also advised the members to lay charges against the people who threatened them either verbally or with weapons.”
He added that he was aware that there were some T-shirts being distributed in Gauteng that were not from the ANC. “Those T-shirts are not sanctioned by the ANC. We condemn the use of the ANC logo.”
The ordeal forced the branch to postpone its branch nomination process for the second time in two weeks. The first meeting was postponed on October 28 because of intimidation, threats and differences over the preferred candidates for the ANC’s national elective conference in Mangaung next month. It will take place again on Friday.
Last week, Zuma and members of the ANC national working committee instituted three task teams to unearth allegations of fraud, irregularities and corruption during the branch nomination processes.
This followed written complaints from about 1 percent of the ANC’s 3 500 branches countrywide. They also alleged that they had been subjected to gate-keeping by leaders who wanted to manipulate the outcome in favour of their preferred candidates.
They alleged that their meetings had been fraudulently constituted and irregularly managed by ANC leaders who had been sent to run them.
Branches have until the end of this month to nominate leaders, or be disqualified.
Earlier this month, armed men arrived at the George Makhubela branch in Ward 45 in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, singing pro-Zuma songs. “People started singing along because these people were armed,” said a branch member.