Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his maiden speech as ANC president. Picture: Karen Sandison/ANA
Johannesburg -  Newly-elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday morning slammed corruption by those in close proximity to party leaders but would not mention state capture by name as he closed the party’s 54th conference.

The conference took place at Nasrec centre, outside Soweto, from December 16-20 2017.

The lead up was marred by dramatic court battles and a surprise announcement on free education and the actual conference was no different. 

The conference was delayed for at least eight hours as the National Executive Committee (NEC) held an impromptu meeting to iron out the contentious court judgments and decided to exclude the provincial executive’s of KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, and North West’s Bojanala district’s executive from voting at the conference.

President Jacob Zuma then officially opened the conference with his last speech as the outgoing president of the ANC. 

In his speech, Zuma said singled out factionalism and ill-discipline as the biggest threats to the party's continued survival.

The first day of the crucial gathering concluded with the failure to adopt credentials, calling into question whether a new leadership would be announced on Sunday evening.

Credentials were finally adopted on Sunday, paving the way for the voting to get underway.

In another dramatic twist of events, Baleka Mbete endorsed Ramaphosa to take over from Zuma, abandoning her presidential bid.

Other highlights included the finalisation of the nomination of candidates to fill the top six positions of the party as well as the presentation of the organisational report. 

Voting, which was meant to take place on Sunday, began on Monday once the treasurer general finished presenting his financial report into the party.

In the end, Ramaphosa emerged the winner, beating Dlamini Zuma in a highly contested race. 

Mpumalanga’s Premier David “DD” Mabuza, Gwede Mantashe, Ace Magashule, Jessie Duarte and Paul Mashatile were also elected to the top six.

The election was quickly followed by drama, with disputes over the 68 unaccounted votes which had threatened to derail entire conference. 

An urgent steering committee meeting was convened and following lengthy discussions, most of the votes were disqualified.

Magashule, who was voted the party’s new secretary general, held onto his position. This was not the end of drama, as legal papers were served to the party over the dispute and in the end, the disgruntled members were summoned to Luthuli House to find a political solution to the matter. 

Security personnel also came under fire for their heavy-handedness against journalists covering the conference.

A video emerged on social media showing journalist Sam Mkokeli being repeatedly shoved and pushed by security personnel.

The final day’s programme began hours on schedule, with briefings from commissions being the first item on the agenda. Feedback on health and education, communication and battle of ideas, social transformation, legislation and governance, peace and stability and economic transformation was presented.