Deputy President of the ANC Kgalema Motlanthe, Limpopo ANC Chairperson Cassle Mathale, and Julis Malema who is mocking "the Zuma shower sign" during the 7th Limpopo Provincial Conference. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Limpopo -

Julius Malema was the elephant in the room at the ANC Limpopo provincial conference this weekend - two years after the firebrand former ANC Youth League leader was axed from the ruling party.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader was bashed at the opening of the ANC conference, including by senior ANC leaders such as national executive committee member Nathi Mthethwa, who labelled him the “boy” who ran down the Limpopo government.

On Friday night Mthethwa blamed Malema - without mentioning his name - for the wholesale corruption that plunged the Limpopo government into financial crisis in 2011.

Mthethwa, who is also police minister, delivered a keynote address at the University of Limpopo, the venue of the elective meeting. He said voters gave the ANC overwhelming support in all the elections since 1994.

“But beyond 2009 comrades, we have done disservice to the people of Limpopo as the leadership,” Mthethwa said.

This was a direct reference to the maladministration and financial mismanagement that typified former premier Cassel Mathale’s administration.

The cabinet ultimately placed five key provincial departments under administration after the province nearly failed to pay public servants.

Hospitals and clinics ran short of basic medication and food. In 2012, pupils at Limpopo schools spent six months without textbooks.

Mthethwa was confident that voters will still show their confidence in the ANC during the May 7 general elections.

“They don’t do so, so that we give some boy some leeway to run government of the ANC in this province and run it down,” Mthethwa said.

“People of Limpopo deserve our respect,” said Mthethwa.

Malema wielded unprecedented influence in the provincial politics when his friend Mathale was still ANC provincial chairman and premier. Mathale was instructed by the ANC in July to resign as premier.

But before he was booted out, the ANC national executive first disbanded his provincial executive committee (PEC) in March.

The national leadership cited “institutionalised factionalism” within party structures in the province.

Mthethwa said that factions and internal political strife revolved around contestation for power and access to state resources.

Such circumstances produced ANC cadres and members who saw ill-discipline, divisions, factionalism and infighting as normal practices that were necessary for political survival, said Mthethwa.

In an indirect reference to Malema’s expulsion from the ANC, Mthethwa said the ANC took a “very correct” decision when such tendencies were taking root in Limpopo.

“So, you can see now the rowdiness, the anarchy out there. It’s exposing itself and we saved ourselves and our movement.”

After the ANC’s unbanning, Mthethwa said, the party attracted “political opportunists and anarchists” who did not have the interests of the party and the society.

“These characters are all interested in self-enrichment programmes which come with corruption, patronage, political killings, imperialism, factionalism and ill-discipline,” Mthethwa said.

When delivering his political report, interim chairman of the outgoing ANC provincial task team (PTT) Falaza Mdaka also lashed out at Malema for the province’s woes.

“(We have witnessed) occasional insults of our leaders by those whose blood was black, green and gold, but the skin was that of the red ants full of corruption and desire to nationalise the mines and state assets in order to create a safe haven to steal government money and rob the poor,” Mdaka said.

The nationalisation of mines and state assets are at the centre of the EFF policy. Asked for comment about ANC leaders’ comments, Malema said: “I don’t entertain cowards, if they want me, they must mention my name.”

Malema faces criminal charges in the Polokwane Circuit Court of the Pretoria High Court relating to the illegal multimillion-rand contract awarded by the Limpopo Roads and Transport Department to controversial company On-Point Engineering. His Ratanang Family Trust held shares in On-Point.

In an apparent concession that the EFF would be a factor in this year’s general elections, Mdaka urged ANC members to swell all spheres of society to canvass votes for the ANC. “Including here at the University of Limpopo, where some strange parties, which did not exist in the past, are fighting for some space,” Mdaka said.

For the first time late last year, the EFF contested the SRC elections and walloped the ANC Youth League by getting three seats.

The EFF showing at the University of Limpopo polls was considered to be a precursor of its performance, particularly in Limpopo, where it enjoys visible support.

Mdaka also hinted that ANC mayors were in the firing line.

n Premier Stanley Mathabatha was elected unopposed as provincial chairman and so was treasurer Thembi Nwendamutsu. Voting for the three other positions - deputy chairperson, secretary and deputy secretary - was still under way at the time of going to press. Full results are expected on Sunday.

- Sunday Independent