Paul Mashatile. File photo: INLSA

Johannesburg - Delegates at the Gauteng ANC’s provincial nomination conference will be allowed to debate without fear of intimidation, provincial chairperson Paul Mashatile said on Thursday.

“We have agreed as Gauteng that let's allow branches to discuss their will freely, and today there is nobody fighting here,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.

“Once the process of voting is done, we will accept that those are the results, and those names will go forward as the nomination of Gauteng.”

He said he did not know who the branches had nominated.

“When the branches nominate, the nominations go into a sealed envelope. So theoretically speaking nobody knows who is nominated, it is just that we get rumours.”

Mashatile said only 350 branches had completed their membership audits. About 100 others still had to conclude theirs.

“Those who have gone through the audit will get the opportunity to vote tonight (Thursday),” he said.

“But those who are being audited, if they conclude tomorrow... they will still get an opportunity to attend (the national conference).”

The provincial conference consolidates branch nominations ahead of the ANC's national conference in Mangaung in December.

Nearly 500 African National Congress delegates gathered at Turffontein race course in Johannesburg on Thursday evening for the event.

The ANC's traditional black, green and gold were barely evident on the delegates' clothing as most were dressed casually.

Before the conference began, members from the Ekurhuleni region sang about former ANC president Oliver Tambo, and held up two fingers, symbolising a second term for President Jacob Zuma.

They later sang in favour of “Msholozi” - Zuma's clan name.

The Gauteng provincial executive committee had previously decided to ban T-shirts with slogans or images supporting candidates, or songs that derided them.

A few female delegates cheered after Mashatile entered the venue. They then rolled their hands in a motion associated with calling for the substitution of a soccer player. This gesture is linked to the call for ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to replace Zuma in Mangaung.

When Mashatile introduced himself to delegates, all cheered, except those from Ekurhuleni. Several rolled their hands.

“I am happy when you are singing and not insulting anyone,” Mashatile said.

Most of the conference, including the announcement of nomination results, was closed to the media. - Sapa