Johannesburg - A chasm is growing in the Gauteng ANC as the fallout over the party’s poor electoral showing grows.
Some regions now want the provincial executive committee (PEC) disbanded as punishment for the party losing support of 10 percentage points in the May 7 poll.
On Monday, a group of disgruntled ANC members from the West Rand and Tshwane regions descended on the party’s Luthuli House headquarters and staged a protest, calling for the disbandment of the PEC.
The protest seemed to be timed to put pressure on the party’s national leadership, with the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) starting to gather in Pretoria for a marathon meeting to decide the names of premiers in the eight provinces it governs.
The group blamed the PEC for the ANC receiving 53.92 percent of the vote in the province.
They also accused the PEC of “unconstitutional and factional behaviour” by undermining the integrity of President Jacob Zuma.
In a memorandum received by the ANC’s manager of internal communications, Donovan Cloete, they alleged the PEC had “indicated in the media that the president is not appealing to the middle (class) and that comrade Thabo Mbeki will be called to campaign in middle-class areas”.
The Gauteng PEC is chaired by Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, who is allied to the group that opposed Zuma’s re-election in 2012.
Some of the group’s posters read: “The weakest link must be disbanded immediately”; “They are a bunch of useless (losers)”; and “Disband the 53% PEC”.
The protesters also accused the PEC of:
- Failure to strongly condemn the booing of Zuma at the FNB Stadium – first at the Nelson Mandela memorial service in December last year and later during the soccer friendly against Brazil.
- Fostering factionalist tendencies relating to the face of the election campaign by not supplying T-shirts with Zuma’s face on them.
- Conceding defeat before the elections by indicating in the media the ANC in Gauteng would be in coalition with the Economic Freedom Fighters.
- Making utterances that sought to blame the Nkandla scandal and e-tolls for the dismal performance in the elections.
- Promoting institutionalised factionalism by taking harsh action against members who did not agree with them.
The Gauteng ANC has been dogged by divisions pitting a faction hostile to Zuma against his sympathisers.
This has become accentuated in the premier nominations.
The NEC faced a conundrum on Monday over whether to endorse Gauteng’s list of its three preferred candidates to serve as premier. The Star reported last week that Premier Nomvula Mokonyane was excluded from the list the PEC submitted to the NEC for ratification.
It opted for secretary-general David Makhura, Education MEC Barbara Creecy and Finance MEC Mandla Nkomfe as its preferred candidates. Nkomfe later withdrew, paving the way for Housing MEC Ntombi Mekgwe to be included on the list.
According to party procedures, Zuma is meant to choose one name from the province’s list of preferred candidates, although the appointment remains his prerogative.
Excluding Mokonyane from the initial list appeared to be a calculated move to back Zuma and the NEC into a corner. Mokonyane, widely seen as Zuma’s preferred name for the post, was nominated to the ANC’s list for the National Assembly but declined.
This fuelled speculation Zuma wanted her to continue in her provincial position.
Monday’s protest action was an attempt to bolster Mokonyane’s chances, by demonstrating grassroots support for her and embarrassing the PEC faction that wants her axed.
But a well-placed MP said the move had the potential to backfire. The NEC wanted to take control of the process and would not want to appear having been pressured into supporting anyone, he said.
In 2009, the provincial leadership proposed that Mashatile – who had been acting as Gauteng premier – continue to head the province. Instead, the NEC appointed Mokonyane, then the housing MEC.
Contacted on Monday, ANC provincial spokesman Nkenke Kekana said: “They (the protesters) can’t be ANC members. ANC members will not behave like that.”