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Mistrust reins in Polokwane

Published Dec 20, 2007


The ANC's national conference - already a day behind schedule - ground to a divisive halt on Wednesday night as delegates from the two opposing camps again slugged it out over vote-counting methods. It is expected to end on Thursday.

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel again cocked a snook at the Jacob Zuma camp, but denied that he did not want to serve a Zuma presidency.

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Asked whether he would accept nomination from the JZ list, Cosatu's Zwelinzima Vavi said he believed there should be some independence and democracy at work.

Zuma cancelled a press conference on Wednesday, after telling aides he would prefer to outline his plan to ANC delegates first.

He was scheduled to break his silence at 9.30am on Thursday, although formal proceedings are now expected to continue into the night. Despite talk of party unity and assurances that all members will now unite behind newly elected president Jacob Zuma, it was clear that mistrust and factionalism still split the party between the Zumites and Mbekites on the conference's penultimate day.

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The Zuma camp - most vocally driven by the ANC Youth League - refused to allow Wednesday's votes for candidates to the expanded 80 member NEC to be counted electronically, despite the time-consuming nature of a manual count.

Fearing skulduggery, the Zumites argued that electronic counting was open to abuse and that the Mbekites will try to "slip" in a few of their own NEC candidates in the process.

Electoral officials argued that manual counting would take at least a day and that an announcement of the results - originally scheduled for 8.30am on Thursday - would only be possible late on Thursday 0night or Friday. The conference was scheduled to close at 12.30pm on Thursday, but appears to be set to continue into the night.

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The plenary session reconvened at 9pm on Thursday night after a deadlock on the issue necessitated a short break, but by 9.30pm no decision had been taken. Instead, various commissions were asked to report on their deliberations.

One Zumite, who did not want to be named, said it did not matter how long the manual counting took. "They can fax us the results when they are done for all I care, as long as the counting is done manually."

After the climactic euphoria of the Tuesday evening's voting results for the top six leadership positions in which the Zumites swept the table, Wednesday's sessions were noticeably subdued, with many members thought to have hit the road early. Exhausted by days of bitter conflict and intense lobbying, the entire conference appeared to be suffering from a post-election hangover.

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Delegates who spoke to the Daily News on Wednesday confirmed that in many of the commissions where policy proposals were being discussed, the debates were listless affairs.

Wednesday was in strong contrast to past conferences, where voting for the NEC has always been accompanied by horse-trading by the lobby groups.

However, it was clear the Zuma list remained the dominant list and that there would be no compromise unity list at the level of the broader ANC executive.

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