ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe. Photo: Theresa Taylor.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe. Photo: Theresa Taylor.

Limpopo probe divides ANC

Time of article published Mar 25, 2012

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A war of words broke out at the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting yesterday over a proposal to probe the outcome of the controversial Limpopo conference that elected President Jacob Zuma’s rivals, including Julius Malema.

The Sunday Independent understands the NEC was seriously divided and a heated debate ensued over whether the previous meeting took a decision to probe the matter.

In the end, it was agreed that a team – led by Justice Minister Jeff Radebe – would probe the outcome of the conference that re-elected Cassel Mathale as chairman and Malema as an additional member of the provincial executive committee.

Radebe could not be reached for comment.

However, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula led a charge, accusing ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe of “smuggling” a clause into the minutes to create the impression that the last NEC took a decision to investigate the Limpopo December conference. Mbalula said the minutes were “a distortion of the previous discussions”.

He argued that the NEC was still awaiting a report on the conference to be processed by the national working committee.

Mantashe said yesterday the minutes had accurately captured the decision.

The matter was sparked by ANC Veteran’s League president Sandi Sejake on Friday, complaining about the accuracy of Mantashe’s minutes.

Sejake yesterday confirmed that he had raised concerns.

But Mantashe said: “How exciting Sejake was is not a big deal for me. (The big deal) is the decision of the NEC,” Mantashe said.

Radebe was asked to lead a five-member committee that would investigate allegations that Mathale and his allies had rigged the outcome of the conference.

Philemon Mdaka, chairman of the ANC’s Vhembe region in the province, is the co-ordinator of the complaints and will liaise with Radebe’s committee.

Mdaka yesterday said he was “aware that comrade Jeff has been appointed to lead the team that will investigate irregularities that happened at the conference”.

“(The team) might be coming to the province in the next week or so because this matter is urgent and cannot be delayed,” he said.

The probe was initially shot down by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Coincidentally, Motlanthe was the main speaker at the Limpopo conference where some Mathale supporters, including Malema, sang derogatory songs about Zuma.

Therefore any possible investigation or subsequent nullification of the conference could dent the Malema-Mathale axis. Motlanthe – who is expected to contest Zuma and whose support includes some members in Limpopo – could also feel the impact of such nullification.

A Malema faction in the league is vocal about its support for the deputy president. On the other hand, some in the Zuma camp are trying to court businessman Cyril Ramaphosa to counterbalance Motlanthe’s intentions as the Mangaung succession skirmishes intensify.

Interestingly, Motlanthe is expected to address a centenary rally in Limpopo with Mathale and Malema today. The rally is described by some in the league as the deputy president’s subtle campaign road-show. Suspended league spokesman Floyd Shivambu was tagged on Facebook with a manipulated poster declaring “Motlanthe for president”.

An NEC member from the North West – who confirmed the probe – said the investigation into Limpopo was meant to remove Mathale.

“They want to drop the Limpopo conference because it is aligned to Kgalema,” the member said.

“Mantashe no longer wants to deal with the complaints, he wants an investigation into Limpopo,” the member said.

However, the tense election was marred by allegations of vote rigging and the printing of fake accreditation cards to allow bogus delegates to vote.

After investigating allegations that a group of youth members were duplicating fake accreditation cards at a printing shop in Polokwane, freelance journalist Chester Makana was assaulted with a brick and later hospitalised.

The league’s provincial administrator Clifford Mohloana was charged with assault and malicious damage to property in connection with the incident.

But the case was thrown out of court.

The probe followed a complaint by Deputy Arts and Culture Minister Joe Phaahla that his rival Mathale had rigged the elections.

Mathale defeated Phaahla with a marginal 82 votes.

However, the Limpopo conference reflects a bigger problem affecting ANC branches. Mantashe admitted in his own report last year that although the ANC had increased its membership by 50 percent to 933 672, not all members seemed credible.

Of the 4 316 branches, only 1 286 “were in good standing during the last audit”.

Mantashe suggested that Limpopo, which was three months away from its elective conference, should not have gone ahead with the conference when the province lost 18 000 members between 2007 and 2010.

“The conference will be a formality and will focus more on the election of the provincial leadership,” he said at the time.

Meanwhile, Zuma – in his political report to the NEC on Friday – reiterated his stance to review the powers of the Constitutional Court, but some NEC members raised concerns over interfering with the constitution.

This comes after the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday that the DA could argue for a review of Zuma’s criminal case which was withdrawn by the then acting national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe. - George Matlala, Piet Rampedi and Moffet Mofokeng

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