WHILE THE ANC policy conference was concluded without any major incidents of violence, tempers flared over the issues of nationalisation of the mines and leadership preference – one delegate was hit with a water bottle and another was manhandled.
In a third incident, a delegate will be charged for displaying a placard that read: “The demise of the youth league is a result of J Zulu”.
Party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told conference delegates in a plenary that a steering committee – comprising senior national and provincial leaders – would probe the incidents.
But yesterday Mantashe played down the incidents, saying: “Your intention is to steal the beauty of the policy conference.
“Your informant told you about what I told the plenary… he is not telling you that (these incidents) are under investigation,” he said, emphasising that there was no “commotion”.
The first incident, which happened on the first day of the conference, was sparked by factional singing between delegates from KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
The squaring up, over allegiance to President Jacob Zuma, turned ugly and one delegate hurled a bottle, which hit a Limpopo delegate.
KwaZulu-Natal is perceived to be supporting Zuma while Limpopo is seen as not supporting the president’s bid for a second term.
Mantashe confirmed yesterday that “the glass throwing” happened on day one.
The second incident, which happened on the last day of the conference on Friday, was triggered by the emotional debate on the youth league’s pet project – nationalisation of the mines – which pitted delegates from the North West against each other.
Priscilla Williams, who was accused of presenting a factional view against nationalisation, was manhandled. One of her comrades grabbed a microphone from her to counter her argument.
Williams, who was fired from Julius Malema’s league, confirmed the incident yesterday.
She said the ANC security personnel intervened.
“Comrades jumped at the microphone and stopped me from speaking. They pushed me from the mic and said they were objecting and then I left and went to sit down.
“I was raising an issue about the submission of the North West that it is not what the province has… resolved on. Now comrades did not want that to be said in conference, that the submission that comrades from the North West have been making on behalf of the province was not true,” she said.
The delegate who manhandled Williams was made to leave the meeting.
ANC North West provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge said yesterday: “We don’t condone such conduct. We would like to apologise on behalf of the ANC and the delegates from the North West.”
Zuma and members of the steering committee left the room during the commotion.
Some of those who spoke to The Sunday Independent on condition of anonymity thought the president was “whisked away” for security reasons, but this could not be confirmed.
Mantashe said the president left with the steering committee to “prepare for his input” before the closing of the conference.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the steering committee met on Friday night, and it was agreed that the delegate would be charged with misconduct.
“Disciplinary steps have been taken against the delegate and others who displayed any form of ill-discipline. Some delegates came to conference with fake name tags and we are dealing with these matters,” Mthembu said.
In his closing address to the four-day conference, Zuma said delegates had displayed “exceptional conduct” and had “restored the integrity of the organisation”, prompting some in his audience to burst into laughter, jeers and whistling – probably remembering the fight that had occurred earlier during a closed session.
However, Zuma also warned the party not to apply double standards when dealing with discipline, a veiled reference to those who criticised him for how the party dealt with Malema. The ANC needed to demonstrate that it did not tolerate wrongdoing, said Zuma.
“Conference emphatically condemned factionalism and agreed that political discipline is a necessary ingredient without which no organisation can achieve its goals.
“Members who are found guilty of wrongdoing in other institutions of society should also be subjected to internal disciplinary processes.”
He said there should be no favouritism when it came to disciplining ANC members.
“Let our rules have no eyes,” said Zuma. “Instil discipline across all levels of the organisation without fear or favour.” – Additional reporting by Sapa
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