Pared-down PAC meets for congress


Far-reaching changes to the constitution of the Pan Africanist Congress are to be put to the vote at the party's national congress, which gets under way at Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape on Friday.

The party, which has for years been dogged by infighting and a dwindling support base, has only one MP, who is clinging to his seat despite being expelled from the PAC last year.

PAC Eastern Cape spokesperson Waters Toboti said on Thursday that 500 delegates were expected at the three-day event, considerably less than the 2 000-odd that attended the last PAC congress in QwaQwa in 2006.

He said the reduction in numbers was the result of a "very tough" screening process to verify the status of branches.

Toboti said the congress would be asked to approve a constitutional amendment raising the minimum number of members required to form a branch from the current 20 to 50.

It would be asked to scrap the posts of party deputy president, chairman and national organiser.

Delegates would be asked to approve a five-year term of office for the party president and national executive committee, instead of the current three years.

And they would be asked to reaffirm the principle that PAC leaders should have their roots in viable branches.

"The problem that caused all the confusion in the PAC was that there were leaders of the party having no branches," he said.

"We are saying anyone who contests any position must emerge from a branch."

Toboti said elections for the party leadership would be held on Saturday morning, with results announced early Sunday.

This would include a 60-member national executive committee.

Party president Letlapa Mphahlele dissolved the previous NEC last year when he suspended the party's constitution.

Toboti said Mphahlele was the only candidate to have emerged from pre-conference nominations for the presidency, though there could possibly still be nominations from the floor.

He said also on the agenda was an appeal from the party's sole MP and former leader Motsoko Pheko, who was expelled from the party last year following allegations of irregularities in his dealings with party funds.

The party tried to remove him from his seat in the National Assembly following the expulsion, but a high court judge ruled that he had to be allowed to exhaust the party's appeal process.

According to Toboti, that means he has to be allowed to appeal to the congress.

Toboti said Pheko had received a letter from the congress organisers informing him that he should attend "because his case is going to be heard".

He did not know how the issue would be dealt with: there had been a proposal that a special congress committee be set up to hear Pheko's representations and report back to the full congress with recommendations.

Pheko on Thursday released to the media a set of correspondence related to his suspension.

"I want to state that during all my over 45 years in the liberation struggle of my people; I was never accused of using any party funds for personal benefit," he said.

"I have not done so now and I will never do so. What some of these guys wanted was the parliamentary seat for people they regard as 'theirs'."

He declined to speak about the matter over the phone, saying it was sub judice. - Sapa


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