Kimberley – The African National Congress (ANC) in the Northern Cape on Tuesday shrugged off protests by a group of disgruntled members outside the party’s head office, Luthuli House, in Johannesburg, and declared that the provincial elective conference would go ahead as planned from Thursday.

The party’s provincial secretary Zamani Saul convened a media briefing in Kimberley.

“The PEC [Provincial Executive Committee] received a report on the preparations towards the 8th provincial conference in Colesburg from 11 – 14 May 2017,” Saul told reporters on Tuesday.

“All service providers have been appointed and the construction of the conference infrastructure is complete. The conference venue would be handed over to the ANC this afternoon by the service provider and engineers.

“We have already pre-registered more than 85 percent of the voting delegates that would be attending the conference. The programme starts on the 10th of May with registration of all delegates. The formal programme will commence on the 11th of May 2017 with messages of support from the ANC leagues and alliance partners.”

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver a keynote address at the conference.

While Saul was addressing the media in Kimberley, a group from the Northern Cape, most of them clad in ANC regalia protested outside Luthuli House on Tuesday.

The protesting ANC members complained that the imminent conference was not inclusive and that some members were omitted from the auditing process and therefore barred from attending the conference.

“We need discipline to grow and stabilise the ANC! The conference will do more damage to the image of the ANC,” read one placard carried by the protesters.

The protesters called on ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe to halt the conference.

The contest between Saul and Premier Sylvia Lucas to take over from former provincial chairman John Block has heated up, with Saul reportedly supporting Ramaphosa, while Lucas backs former African Union chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma are front runners in the race to lead the ANC.

The conference dispute brings again to the fore allegations of vote buying and falsified delegation lists that mars ANC elective conferences.

Block resigned from his top provincial position in 2015 after he was convicted of corruption and money laundering by the high court.