Johannesburg - The selection of ANC councillors last year was fraught with manipulation and serious irregularities; and the ruling party is considering firing and charging some of its members and leaders, and removing implicated councillors.
The ruling party was told that it might have to give up some of its wards and call for new by-elections in cases where the ANC councillors were chosen fraudulently just before the 2011 local government elections.
A party task team, led by AU chairwoman and ANC leader Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, investigated disputes from 419 wards following complaints and violent protests against some of the candidates who were rejected by party branch members and the community.
Of the 419 wards investigated, the team recommended that in 125 wards, the ANC processes be redone – even if it means firing some councillors.
“It is worth noting that during the election processes, almost every province had experienced violent protests and growing intolerance emanating from, amongst others, dissatisfaction with the nomination and selection of candidates processes…
“This is indeed a serious matter that would require earnest address,” the team has urged the party.
The team’s report was given to members of the party’s national executive committee (NEC), the ANC’s highest decision-making structure between conferences.
The team has found that ANC’s membership system was manipulated and that the process to select candidates was also corrupt.
In many instances, the report revealed, candidates for municipal elections preferred by branches were not selected for no apparent reason. This created divisions, tensions and disillusionment among members.
The candidate lists were changed and tampered with, and unknown candidates were imposed on members.
“The task team came across instances of candidates only joining the ANC after being nominated. In certain instances, the candidates [now incumbent councillors] have… shockingly [sic] little knowledge of the ANC,” the report said.
The party’s task team discovered that government services were withheld from communities that did not select the councillors.
“Certain ward councillors misuse their positions to purge those members of the branch who preferred other candidates during nomination and selection processes, and prioritise delivery of services and jobs to those sections of community that preferred them.
“The use of patronage and manipulation of tenders and projects by councillors in order to mobilise support was a frequent feature of the complaints investigated by the task team. The task team also came across instances of corruption where councillors demand bribes to facilitate the rendering of services,” the report said.
The task team has recommended criminal charges and disciplinary actions.
“The committee recommended that in wards where there has been gross violation of the guidelines, internal nomination and selection process should be redone.
“Where an incumbent councillor is nominated again through such a process s/he should remain in office.
“Where the incumbent councillor is not re-nominated through the process, it is recommended that s/he be asked to resign and that a by-election be held.”
“In certain instances the task team recommends that disciplinary proceedings in terms of the ANC constitution should be considered, and in other instances that matters be referred to the appropriate state institutions for investigations for possible criminal [charges].”
The fights over the selection of candidates proved costly to the party.
“Branch executive committee members and branch members whose preferred candidates were not chosen ended up not participating in the election campaigns while some nominees became independent candidates”.
However, the task team also traced the root cause of the rot to the manipulation of its membership system, corruption and infighting in the party.
At the centre of it all is how members were recruited, with some party leaders using the membership forms to bar their rivals.
“People refuse to submit membership forms and use it to build their power base and influence processes, thus disempowering members and branches… This is an indication that there is complete lack of branch political activity,” the report admitted.
“Many branches kept master lists of those members that they regarded as acceptable.
“Even members in possession of membership slips, forms and cards were denied participation in meetings on the basis that their names did not feature on the [known] lists”.
The party’s task team admitted that “manipulation of the ANC membership system took place either at the stage of recruitment or through the various mechanisms used to manage the administration of membership”.
“Instances of either bulk membership or gate-keeping were a common feature of the complaints investigated by the task team.”
Bulk-buying means a member deposits membership fees on behalf of several members, obtaining bank stamps on blank forms.
The forms were either filled before or at branch meetings, “sometimes using the names of persons who were not even ANC members”.
Meanwhile, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe – in his organisational report presented to the NEC this weekend – said new signs of divisions and factionalism “are a source of worry and concern”.
“The determination by some members of our movement to destabilise the organisation and disrupt meetings as a tactic of getting what they want either in conferences or any other structure of the movement is a clear sign of a revolutionary movement that is infiltrated,” Mantashe said, citing violent protests and disruptions at the party’s centenary celebrations.
“The unity that was witnessed when the ANC was under pressure and threatened by the defections to the newly formed Cope is a bit shaky with visible cracks from time to time.”
He said name-calling ahead of the conference was rife.
“This labelling entrenched factions and made people remain in their trenches and take rigid positions beyond conferences.”
He repeated his criticism of NEC members’ performance.
“Few members of the NEC took their work in the provinces seriously. In all teams deployed in the provinces not more than half consistently serviced provinces. A few attend sub-committee meetings,” he said.
He said the party’s organisational capacity was affected by leaders joining government and state institutions.
“There are many NEC members deployed in the cabinet and as chairpersons of portfolio committees, leaving too little time for organisational work. This was complicated by the deployment of four NEC members to key diplomatic posts, depriving them the opportunity to participate fully in the organisational work. At the same time this deprived the organisation access to the critical capacity and experience embodied in these comrades,” Mantashe said, adding that Dlamini Zuma’s election as chairwoman of the AU also compounded the problem.
He condemned the “the public spats among NEC members” and alliance leaders, saying “this has become intensive in the run-up to the national conference where everything is seen in terms of leadership preference”.
Mantashe said the ANC Youth League is positioning itself as “a counterforce to the ANC” and that this has translated itself “into recklessness in dealing with the ANC as a mother-body.”
“This behaviour has cost the movement heavily over time. It was unfortunate that the approach to the question of discipline was not unanimous among NEC members,” Mantashe said, in an apparent reference to the expulsion of former league leader Julius Malema, and the suspension of other leaders of the youth movement.
Mantashe said the ANC leaders did not support him when he was attacked by the league. – Additional reporting by Moshoeshoe Monare