Supporters of former South African President Zuma gather outside a public inquiry into state graft, in Johannesburg
Cape Town - Top ANC leaders are heading to another troubled province after the party suffered an electoral loss in the Free State.

The party has been left rattled after it lost close to a dozen wards in a Free State municipality following the expulsion of its councillors who turned independent candidates.

The divisions in the party have been ongoing for some time, but this week the ANC said that infighting cost it 10 wards in Maluti-a-Phufong municipality.

The councillors, who snatched the wards back as independent candidates, had been fired by the ANC after they tried to remove their mayor.

The electoral defeat comes as senior ANC leaders visit another troubled province this weekend.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and national executive committee members will be in various regions of the North West.

The NEC and the interim provincial committee will meet regional structures today and tomorrow. This visit comes after the interim structure was appointed to take the province to the next conference.

The NEC was in the Western Cape last weekend, where Magashule and other NEC members visited various regions. They said they were satisfied with the work being done in the area.

The ANC has been dealing with infighting in its provinces and it was forced to disband the provincial executive committees in the North West and Western Cape.

Spokesperson in the Free State Thabo Meeko said the party welcomed the support it received in the by-elections despite internal divisions.

This was one of the biggest losses the party had suffered at the hands of former councillors in a municipal poll.

Despite losing the wards, the ANC retained its majority in the Maluti-a-Phufong municipality with 37 seats and 32 held by the opposition.

This is one of the municipalities which owes Eskom hundreds of millions of rand. At the last count, Maluti-a-Phufong owed the power utility more than R2billion.

Businesspeople in the area had taken Eskom to court to prevent the electricity from being switched off because of the municipality’s debt. They had complained that this was going to kill their businesses.

The municipal debt has been increasing over the past few years with Eskom now owed more than R17bn.

In some instances, the power utility had entered into arrangements with municipalities but they had subsequently defaulted. The government has been trying to rein in poor performing municipalities, but they are saddled with debt, poor infrastructure and lack of service delivery.

Politics Bureau