Bloemfontein - Court battles, factional tensions over the delegates’ credentials and an all out leadership tussle between ANC president Jacob Zuma and his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe escalated on the eve of the ruling party’s scrutinised conference.
It’s down to the wire. All bets are off as both camps are ready to fight the ANC leadership election at the Mangaung national conference, with both sides believing that their candidate will “take the conference”.
The conference could be delayed as some delegates are expected to fight for their way in, or question their comrades’ credentials.
With no deal, the leadership race will be decided by secret ballot by 4 500 delegates possibly as soon as today, as nominations close.
The results, however, are not anticipated until tomorrow evening, as all ballots will be counted manually.
“No negotiations. We are fighting for our cadre now. We tried everything, but the time has come to part ways with people who see the ANC as a private company,” said a senior backer in Zuma’s camp.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe this week said: “The president is coming to conference. He is not contesting. He is the incumbent. He is being contested.”
Mantashe’s remarks underscore the belief among those who support Zuma’s second term ambitions that Motlanthe crossed a line in publicly announcing that he would contest all three positions he was nominated for – the presidency, the deputy presidency and as an ANC national executive committee (NEC) member.
The deal, which The Sunday Independent understands has now definitely fallen through, was premised on Motlanthe not standing against Zuma.
A provincial executive committee member in KwaZulu-Natal said businessman Cyril Ramaphosa was a “real” candidate.
The Forces of Change group, which is backing Motlanthe for president, believe they will carry the day. They believe that even in pro-Zuma provinces their delegates would cast their “real” vote.
After Zuma, who was expected to set a hardline tone in his opening address today, the debate around credentials of delegates - those who may be at the national conference - is set to be heated.
Delays were expected as both sides press their respective grievances, and this could even stall the first day’s proceedings.
A senior ANC Limpopo official told The Sunday Independent “I don’t see us avoiding it”. At least two other heavyweights from two other provinces agree.
However, a series of meetings took place in Mangaung on the eve of the conference to get the credential ducks in a row.
Late yesterday the ANC NEC was still locked in a meeting, trying to resolve the effects of the court ruling on the Free State provincial executive committee.
This followed Friday’s Constitutional Court ruling declaring the June provincial conference “unlawful and invalid”.
It is understood there was a push to request the ANC NEC to appoint an interim PEC under Rule 12 (1). But it was not carried.
Mantashe last night reiterated the Free State's 324 delegates were not affected by the court ruling and would participate.
No-one had taken the delegates to court, he explained.
Mantashe and ANC head of policy Jeff Radebe stressed the ANC respected the rule of law and the courts and they accept the ruling “without reservation”.
Mantashe and Radebe last night emphasised the ANC respected the rule of law and courts.
It is understood there was a strong push by many in the ANC NEC to expel all those who challenged the ANC in court.
Another court-related delay could ensure over the Mafikeng High Court ruling the conference should consider claims of, among bogus delegates, in the processes leading up to the North West nominations conference.
It is understood there was a push to convene a special provincial general council to appoint an interim provincial executive committee.
This would pave the way for the current Free State leaders to take up its 20 votes at the national conference.
Mantashe has made it clear that the Free State’s 324 delegates were not affected by the court ruling, and would participate.
No one had taken the delegates to court, he explained.
Also not affected is long-serving ANC chairman and Free State Premier Ace Magashule, who was directly elected to the ANC NEC.
That structure holds 80 votes at conference.
Another court-related delay was the Mafikeng High Court ruling, in which the conference was urged to consider claims of, among others, bogus delegates, in the processes leading up to the North West nominations conference.
ANC leaders are determined to avoid any embarrassment at the conference, which also marks the end of the ANC’s centenary celebrations.
Movement in and out of the University of the Free State conference precinct is tightly controlled, with every person and car checked.
A threat analysis by the police’s crime intelligence division has highlighted the need for extraordinary measures because almost all cabinet members are on campus.
While a threat analysis is standard for an event of this scale, there is also a decided sense of paranoia.
Rumours and speculation abound that both the second term and pro-change camps could destabilise proceedings if the outcome does not favour them.
While there is a hardline stance on the ANC top six officials, the factions are prepared to horse-trade on the elections of the ANC NEC members.
KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s largest backer, indicated that they will entertain discussions with their counterparts on retaining skilled cadres.
“On our side we are still more open to accommodate other comrades,” said one senior ANC official in reference to a question on whether key figures in the pro-change camp would be accommodated in the NEC.
Judging by the nominations lists for ANC NEC from the pro-Zuma camp, it would appear that if it prevails, many current cabinet ministers would no longer be part of the NEC.
This sets the scene for fierce debate, which will be the final arbiter on any policy changes the ANC adopts and which could ultimately lead to potentially far-reaching government policy changes.
- The Sunday Independent reported in its first edition that Mantashe walked out of the NEC meeting yesterday. This could not be proved. - Sunday Independent