File picture: Dumisani Dube

Johannesburg - With the African National Congress (ANC) leadership having boycotted a consultative conference to deal with continued infighting, the party's 54th national conference faced a risk of disintegration, the uMkhonto We Sizwe (MK) National Council said on Friday. 

MK council executive committee member Len Rasegatla said the governing party was ''too sick'' to go to conference. ''We have been on record saying that something had to be done to quell the sickness grappling the ANC. 

The party is too sick to go to conference ... the issue of conference collapsing is not far fetched, but we also want to appeal to delegates to make sure that does not happen,'' Rasegatla told reporters in Johannesburg. 

He would not say which of the two frontrunners' slates, that of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma would pose problems at the conference. 

The ANC military wing consisting of former MK soldiers said it would not name its preferred leader to take over from President Jacob Zuma. Its secretary Thabang Makwetla said time was of the essence for Africa's oldest liberation movement to unite. 

''We have in our hands an athlete [ANC] that is sick and unfit for the race he must compete in. Time is of the essence and we as former members of the uMkhonto We Sizwe through our struggle, will do everything to ensure that we strengthen the historical relationship the ANC must have with our people through this conference and beyond.'' 

The council will field 20 delegates to the Nasrec conference, same number accorded to the rival MK structure, the MK Military Veterans (MKMVA) led by Kebby Maphatsoe. 

The two warring organisations claim to represent the interests of the former MK soldiers, but are yet to form a united front. The MKMVA is backing Dlamini-Zuma to lead the ANC. 

The council has criticised Zuma for his support of the MKMVA, and accused him of sowing divisions by choosing which MK conference to attend after he snubbed the council's June conference. Ramaphosa addressed the council members at the conference. 

The conference, labelled as the most important in the ANC’s history, will see delegates voting for their preferred top six leaders and NEC members. The conference will also examine and come up with new policies ahead of the 2019 general elections. 

Seven presidential hopefuls have out up their hands to take over from Zuma, but Ramaphosa and the former African Union (AU) chairwoman Dlamini-Zuma have emerged as front runners for the ANC top job. Voting for the new ANC president takes place on Sunday. 

African News Agency/ANA