BY SOLLY MAPHUMULO, BALDWIN NDABA AND POLOKO TAU
Johannesburg - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, an ally of President Jacob Zuma, allegedly hijacked the North West nomination conference and replaced Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s supporters with bogus delegates before instructing the police to shoot anti-Zuma delegates.
Mthethwa, one of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) members who oversaw the tense provincial nomination conference, has been accused of tampering with conference documents and replacing Motlanthe’s backers with rented crowds mandated to vote for Zuma.
So determined was Mthethwa to rig the conference that he allegedly openly sidelined electoral officers, telling them he was an NEC member and they couldn’t tell him anything.
Provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge confirmed on Tuesday night that senior ANC leaders had “hijacked” the conference, adding he was locked inside a bunker leading to the conference venue and denied access.
After twice failing to nominate leaders, the divided North West unexpectedly endorsed Zuma at its nomination meeting in Rustenburg on Sunday.
About 128 aggrieved delegates have taken up the matter with Luthuli House, saying Mthethwa was at the centre of the vote-rigging scandal that plagued the conference. They included branch and regional leaders mainly from the province’s Ngaka Modiri Molema region, which covers Mafikeng.
Threatening to challenge their exclusion in the Mafikeng High Court, they accused Mthethwa of sidelining Independent Electoral Officers charged with running the nominations before manipulating its outcome in Zuma’s favour.
Mthethwa could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. His spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, confirmed on Tuesday night that the minister was part of Sunday’s nomination conference in Rustenburg, but declined to comment on the allegations.
“Internal ANC matters are dealt with through internal party processes. as such, if any member of the ANC has any complaint that they need to lodge, they can follow such processes. The minister will therefore not deal with internal ANC matters through media platforms,” Mnisi said.
Mataboge, who backs Motlanthe, said he was first locked outside the venue by a provincial executive committee member and later denied the right to participate because he did not have an identity document.
He added that the NEC team had flouted the processes.
“The NEC took over everything to achieve their own intentions and never gave the provincial office sufficient space to play their role.”
He said illegitimate delegates were “hand-delivered” to the conference to replace those formally nominated by their branches.
Another provincial leader claimed that Mthethwa had over-ruled the adopted guidelines, which stated that legitimate delegates would only be drawn from the sealed boxes with reports of branch general meetings, nomination forms and attendance registers.
The party leader said the NEC’s intention was to sway votes towards Zuma.
“The truth is, NEC members have a vested interest in the election processes and are not meant to participate. They swopped legitimate delegates with bogus ones who chant the same slogans and wear the same T-shirts as them.”
About 130 delegates told The Star outside Luthuli House on Tuesday that Mthethwa and others had stolen the conference.
They said they were locked out and threatened with violence if they did not oblige.
The complainants did not get access to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. They spoke to his deputy Thandi Modise and ANC NEC member Jackson Mthembu.
Bongani Mvala claimed that Mthethwa had ordered the police to open fire on them.
“They only allowed those who were wearing Zumantashe T-shirts inside the hall. When we raised our concerns, the police started firing rubber bullets at us.
“They were acting on instructions from Nathi Mthethwa.”
Another delegate, who declined to be named for fear of victimisation, added angrily: “Nathi Mthethwa is a problem. he instructed police to disperse us by firing rubber bullets. How can he use police to fight for Zuma’s second term? The conference was rigged and we are going to court to get an interdict.”
A well-placed source said ANC MP Lumka Yengeni, one of the NEC deployees, was not impressed with Mthethwa’s alleged instruction for the police to shoot anti-Zuma delegates.
“She said wenza ntoni Nathi? (What are you doing, Nathi?),” said the source.