East London - Voting for the new African National Congress Eastern Cape provincial leadership was concluded at the East London International Convention Centre early on Sunday morning despite the outbreak of violence inside the venue which saw a number of delegates backing Phumulo Masualle to retain the provincial chairmanship storming out of the conference.
The provincial conference descended into chaos on Saturday night and at least eight delegates were injured when ANC members turned on each other over disagreements about the adoption of credentials for delegates.
A number of delegates stormed out of the conference venue after midnight, alleging that they were being assaulted with chairs and "other dangerous objects" by the supporters of ANC provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane, who is standing against Masualle for the chairmanship.
One delegate was seriously injured when he was severely beaten in the face with a microphone, according to eyewitnesses. He was among several injured people transported to hospital by ambulance.
ANC provincial spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said some delegates had raised issues regarding the presence of certain branches at the conference without having held proper branch general meetings.
"There were calls to vote for [the] adoption of credentials, but certain members would not accept that; they started singing. After two to three hours of consultation chairs started to fly, some delegates started to panic and ran to the front," Qoboshiyane said.
Members of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) deployed at the conference were supposed to guide the way forward, he said.
NEC member Bheki Cele said he was speaking to police officers behind the stage when things turned violent. "I saw people running towards our direction and police tried to protect me, saying I must lie down, but I refused," said Cele.
Some delegates blamed provincial executive member Andile Lungisa and Amathole regional secretary Teris Ntutu for the disruptions. A delegate who declined to be named said Lungisa and Ntutu had "disputed everything, trying to disqualify every delegate from their regions if they appear to be supporting Mabuyane. Both of them were complaining about delegates that were disqualified".
Earlier on Saturday, Ntutu alleged some branches from his region had not convened branch general meetings and had "smuggled" members to the conference. About 14 delegates were later disqualified but 10 of them did not return the tags allowing delegates inside the venue, he said.
When matters eventually calmed down, a large number of delegates returned to the conference venue while others supporting Masualle held their own gatherings outside the venue. The conference resumed and finally adopted the credentials and nominations for the top five leadership positions.
ANC national spokesman and NEC member Zizi Kodwa said about 80 percent of delegates were inside the venue. Those absent included a number of delegates who failed to arrive at all for the conference.
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Mabuyane accepted nomination for provincial chairman. Also nominated was Masualle, but he was not present. NEC members said they had contacted him regarding the nomination. The other nominated members within the Masualle faction were also not present. Mabuyane was also nominated for the provincial secretary position which he has held for the past eight years.
The voting outcome looks set to be a clean sweep for the Mabuyane faction, but it is highly anticipated that the Masualle faction could bring a court interdict or legal challenge to the outcome of the provincial conference. Results are expected to be released during the course of Sunday.
African News Agency