An injured delegate after the fracas at the ANC's elective conference in East London at the weekend.
Durban - Two of the ANC's biggest provinces remain on a knife edge as political solutions are being sought to avoid more tension flaring in the run-up to the party’s elective conference in December.

There were fears on Monday that the party’s second biggest province - the Eastern Cape - could be gripped by the same crisis as its biggest province - KwaZulu-Natal - in the wake of a highly contested elective conference.

On Monday, the ANC in the Eastern Cape moved swiftly to allay fears that Premier Phumulo Masualle would be ousted after losing the party’s provincial chairmanship position to Oscar Mabuyane.

ANC provincial deputy secretary Helen Sauls-August said at the East London High Court that Masualle would keep his powerful post.

This was after a court hearing on an application which had been brought in a bid to nullify the weekend’s elective conference was dismissed.

Judge Belinda Hartle said the application had not been properly enrolled and that she was forced to strike it from the roll.

But she said this was not to say the applicants, the five ANC ordinary members from the OR Tambo region, “have lost their right to challenge the alleged illegality of the conference”.

By Monday, Sauls-August said, Masualle had not sent a congratulatory message to Mabuyane, who was pronounced the new provincial chairperson on Sunday. This was despite Mabuyane extending an olive branch to Masualle and his supporters.

Mabuyane did not single out Masualle when he thanked senior ANC officials who had worked with him in the past term. He thanked only Sauls-August for the “sterling work she has done for the ANC”.

Asked if Masualle would stay as premier until the end of his term, Sauls-August said: “Comrade Masualle will stay on in his job. He is going to be afforded the respect he deserves as the premier.

"Yes, he is deployed by the ANC and he will have to account as we always do,” said Sauls-August, who is the MEC for human settlements.

Masualle’s MECs like Sakhumzi Somyo (economic development), Pumza Dyantyi (health), Mlibo Qoboshiyane (rural development), Thandiswa Marawu (public works) and Nancy Sihlwayi (social development), who have been campaigning for him, were not present during Mabuyane’s pronouncement as the new chairperson.

Mabuyane earlier said Masualle would be allowed to stay as premier until 2019. It remains to be seen if this is going to happen after the relationship between the two took a dive at the weekend.

A meeting to iron out the differences between the two rival factions is planned for tomorrow at Calata House in King William’s Town, the party’s provincial headquarters.

Sauls-August, who topped the list of ANC provincial deployees before the 2014 general election, said ill-discipline and anarchy would not be tolerated.

“What happened at the weekend was embarrassing. It will never happened again,” she vowed.

Despite a debilitating loss during the ANC’s Eastern Cape conference at the weekend, outspoken and former ANC provincial executive member Andile Lungisa said Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s campaigners in the province would not be deterred.

“There is no culture in the ANC but its constitution. As ANC members we are guided by our constitution. We cannot be told by people with their own agendas that a deputy president needs to ascend to the position of the presidency. There is no such thing,” said Lungisa.

Meanwhile Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa received a major boost for his campaign from Mabuyane’s followers.

Scores of delegates were left bruised and bloodied as chairs flew on Saturday night following disputes over delegates' credentials at the East London International Convention Centre.

Monday’s ruling to strike an application to interdict the outcome of the conference from the court’s roll also bolstered Ramaphosa’s campaign.

This was after the province’s new executive said it would be “getting on with the task as mandated by the branches”.

While Ramaphosa was addressing the conference, Lungisa and other senior ANC leaders like Mlibo Qoboshiyane were addressing the other ANC gathering in East London's City Hall, openly defying Mabuyane’s leadership.

On Monday, the ANC's top leadership also met with the party’s provincial executive in KwaZulu-Natal in a bid to thrash out a political solution for the problems facing the party in that province.

The ANC in KZN, the Eastern Cape and the Free State may be in disarray, but Monday’s court ruling could throw a spanner in the works for those who are disgruntled and wanting to turn to the courts for relief.

That’s the view of political analyst Thabani Khumalo.

“The (East London) court ruling has hurt a faction that walked out of a meeting The court has proved that this tactic will not work.

“(Former eThekwini mayor) James Nxumalo’s supporters tried the same thing in eThekwini when that faction walked out of a conference and the current mayor, Zandile Gumede, was elected eThekwini's regional chairperson, and that decision was endorsed by the ANC's national executive committee (NEC).”

Khumalo said walking out of a conference was no longer an option to try to delay or disrupt the process.

“Anyone who thinks they can disrupt December’s elective conference in this way will find it will not work,” he added.

Khumalo said that if the NEC approved the results of a conference now, there was very little chance of a court overturning that decision.

The KZN rebels and the nullified provincial executive committee met with the NEC on Monday over the fate of the 2015 provincial conference.

The court processes have left the party in limbo in the province.

The ANC wants a political solution and not one that comes from the courts.

In the Free State, chairperson Ace Magashule and his deputy Thabo Manyoni may try to turn to the courts to resolve their differences, but the ANC in the province could be in danger of missing the chance to hold its elective conference.

Wits political analyst Prof Susan Booysen said the Eastern Cape court ruling places a lid on one of the options available to stall an ANC conference, but this does not stop those who are disgruntled from disrupting the December elective conference.

Political Bureau

"It's a tough time for the ANC, it is looking for an opportunity to self-correct and this can only be done through an elective conference," she said.