Cape Town - ANC activists in the Western Cape are set to challenge the current provincial leadership, headed by chairman Marius Fransman, saying they are members of “power-hungry elites” preoccupied with factional politics.
The group of more than 150 members, which includes friends, family and colleagues of the current provincial leadership, met in the Southern Cape at the weekend to discuss the road toward the 2016 local government elections.
And they agreed that if the current leadership does not abandon its “factional ways”, activists will have no other choice but to get rid of them.
While the group was meeting in George, provincial ANC leaders were in a provincial executive committee meeting on the West Coast discussing their own renewal programme.
The top five provincial leaders are Fransman, his deputy Abe Pekeur, provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile, deputy secretary Maurentia Gillion, and treasurer Fezile Calana. Other leaders include members of the provincial executive committee and representatives of all the regions; up to 40 people in all.
In a widely circulated internal discussion document dubbed “unity in diversity”, the activist group said despite the provincial ANC being under new leadership since 2011, it had failed to make good on its promises of renewal.
Provincial leadership has dismissed the document, saying it could be “DA-sponsored or inspired”.
According to the group’s document the ANC’s “dismal failure” in this year’s national elections could be partly ascribed to the bruising conflicts of “slatism” that plagued it on the road to Mangaung and at the provincial list conference.
Slate politics, or factionalism, as it is commonly known, started as far back as Ebrahim Rasool’s tenure as premier. Rasool and ANC bigwig Mcebisi Skwatsha were in rival factions of the provincial ANC, both vying for control.
The battle has since raged on with three different camps emerging prior to Fransman being elected provincial leader.
These camps were the Fransman camp, the Skwatsha camp and the Mjongile camp. And while the top brass have smoked the proverbial peace pipe, at grassroots level, ANC activists claim divisions are still wide.
Speaking to the Cape Argus, a long-time ANC activist who did not want to be named, said they wanted the leadership to allow them the space to talk openly about the real challenges facing the party in the province.
“We need to create a space for healing and renewal no matter what faction you previously supported. This is not a coup but a genuine concern from branch leaders to ready and strengthen the party ahead of the next elections.”
Another branch leader said they wanted a strong unified ANC with credible leaders who were committed to dealing with the issues facing local communities. “We want vibrant branches, branches not being being used for promoting personal agendas but instead campaigning, mobilising and advocating bread-and-butter issues.”
The group argued that many of the ANC’s woes in the province stemmed from a schismatic culture that had taken root at the heart of the organisation and permeated rank and file to such an extent that it had become an impediment to growth, development and organisational renewal.
Members said canvassing support for the party had developed into an art in modern electoral politics, but slate politics brought in a disingenuous element that lacked integrity and was by nature fraught with corruption.
“The bigger the purse the more perverse slate politics becomes in its intent and modus operandi,” the document warned.
The group dispersed after two days of talks, saying their sole intent was to clean up the party’s ranks.
“We will start from the bottom, travel the length and breadth of this province to get people on board. We voted our leaders into power and they are accountable to us the people, but if they are failing us they should be removed,” they warned.
And they said they wanted to unite rather than marginalise and divide the party, and restore it to a party that was loved and trusted by all.
Provincial secretary Mjongile said the ANC could not give credence to a document that could be “DA-inspired or sponsored”.
He emphasised that the Western Cape ANC was stronger and better than before.
“The party has not been in this kind of order for a very long time. We’ve just embarked on an organisational renewal programme called Imvuselelo, which is bearing fruit at branch level.”
The campaign was launched by President Jacob Zuma shortly after the elections in May.
Mjongile questioned how it could be explained that when the ANC was beginning to gain ground there were those who were hell-bent on destroying the base on which the party needed to build.
There were “proper ways” for members to raise their concerns or start campaigns through their branches, and ultimately through the upcoming regional elective conferences at which branches would choose new leadership in October.