Things came to a head at the ANC’s Western Cape provincial executive committee (PEC) meeting when a member and Ses’khona leader Andile Lili took on acting chairperson Khaya Magaxa and accused him of “trying to stab” him after the gathering on Sunday.
Ses’khona is an infamous Western Cape movement that threw faeces in public spaces in protest in what they felt was Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s failure to provide services to the city’s impoverished townships.
Lili said Magaxa became violent with him after he objected to his attempts to reverse the decision to dissolve the regional executive committee (REC) of the Dullah Omar region, which has the biggest ANC membership in the province.
The region, which was disbanded last month, is now controlled by leaders believed to be supporting Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, after President Jacob Zuma's term ends.
Zuma and the ANC officials led the delegation of the party’s national working committee, which descended on the province at the weekend and read the riot act to its leaders in the face of internal strife.
The president also led a delegation to Kimberly in the Northern Cape the previous weekend.
Ramaphosa’s supporters believe there was a strong push to disband the Western Cape and Northern Cape regions because of their support for him.
Lili said he called Magaxa “to order” over his proposal. “The majority had agreed in the PEC that we cannot reverse the decision to disband the Dullah Omar REC. Khaya was pushing for the reconstitution.
"I also told him that the SACP has no numbers in the province and if it wanted to contest the elections on its own, as the SACP has said, they would not win. That is why he got angry. I told him that in front of the (top six) officials and the ANC’s NWC,” Lili said.
“Khaya ran to his car after the meeting and came back like a headless chicken, asking people where I was."
Lili added that Magaxa came back roughly “20 to 30 minutes later with his hand in his pocket” and asked him to repeat what he had said in the meeting to his face.
“I repeated what I said to him and asked him: ‘What have I done to you other than tell you how you were supposed to run the meeting?’
“There was nothing sinister about me correcting him in a meeting situation. But he saw that as an attack on him, hence he wanted to stab me. I also stood up and wanted to respond, but unfortunately he moved back. I was then asked by comrades to leave the venue.”
But Magaxa condemned Lili for these accusations, saying he could not comment on a “factional story” that did not happen in his presence.
Magaxa is also the secretary of the Western Cape SACP and was recently elected to the party’s central committee at its national congress this month.
“The Dullah Omar issue is not for discussion at our (PEC) level. It’s the national leadership that will ultimately decide what should happen on that matter. When the decision (to disband Dullah Omar) happened, I was not even present in that meeting,” Magaxa said.
“Lastly, all I know is that Lili is physically challenged and fighting with him wouldn’t be fair - let alone stabbing him. I can’t even use my hands on the guy, otherwise I would be organising a jail term for myself.”
The tussle in the Western Cape emerged as the ANC Women’s League launched an attack on another presidential hopeful, Lindiwe Sisulu, over which female candidate was suitable to replace Zuma.
On Tuesday, the ANCWL came out guns blazing against Sisulu, accusing her of “populism and opportunism”.
This was after the human settlements minister launched a presidential campaign at the weekend and having reportedly said on Monday that the league was undemocratic for favouring former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma over her.
“I think it is wrong for them to say that. It is not only wrong, it is also undemocratic. Any candidate nominated by the branches can go to the ANC conference and stand for the position,” Sisulu was quoted as saying.
ANCWL secretary-general Meokgo Matuba hit back at Sisulu, saying they had noted with disdain the report attributed to her.
“The article purports comrade Lindiwe being aggrieved by the decision taken by the duly constituted extended NEC (national executive committee) meeting of the ANCWL to the extent where she labels the ANCWL as undemocratic,” she said.
In a veiled attack on Sisulu, Matuba warned against “politics of populism and opportunism”.
“Persuasion, not character assassination and labelling or name-calling must be encouraged, in particular by those with a desire to lead.
“The masses still need the ANC beyond the 2017 national elective conference,” she added.