Work is underway at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, in preparation for the 54th ANC national elective conference starting this Saturday. PHOTOS: Siphelele Dludla/ANA
Work is underway at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, in preparation for the 54th ANC national elective conference starting this Saturday. PHOTOS: Siphelele Dludla/ANA

Johannesburg - Preparations got underway on Monday at Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg for the 54th national conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) where candidates will battle it out for the leadership of the continent's oldest liberation movement. 

The much-anticipated conference will see seven candidates battle it out for the ANC's top job as President Jacob Zuma's second term comes to an end. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and veteran ANC National Executive Committee member and former African Union Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, have been tipped as the main frontrunners. 

Though the five-day conference will only kick off at the weekend, work got underway on Monday. When the African News Agency (ANA) visited the venue, workers had begun erecting signboards, marquees, cutting the grass, bringing in chairs and doing electrical installations at the venue. 

Only construction and maintenance workers and police officers were only allowed inside the conference venue at this point, with one of maintenance managers telling ANA that no one will be allowed near the venue without proper accreditation and that security will be very tight. 

ANC provincial general councils to elect preferred candidates were marred by chaos and violence as members disrupted proceedings in some provinces, including notably the Northern Cape, Free State and the Eastern Cape. 

Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) on Monday indicated that there will be road closures around the Nasrec vicinity, with spokesperson Wayne Minnaar saying that officers from all law enforcement agencies in Gauteng will be on duty at the conference until Thursday next week. 

"The officers will manage traffic on Nasrec Road, Aerodrome Road, and Randburg Road, and will be on duty at the on and off ramps from the N1, N12, M1 and M2 highways," Minaar said. 

Johannesburg Emergency Management Services could not disclose which of their operations will be beefed up for the conference, with spokesman Robert Mulaudzi only saying that they will follow the lead of the South African Police Services (SAPS).

SAPS could not also immediately officially comment on their planned operations around the conference, with Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo saying they "will be issuing a statement" later in the day.

Hotels and lodges in and around Johannesburg are bound to be fully booked as the ANC expects at least 4,000 delegates and more than 1,000 journalists from all over the country as well as abroad to attend the conference. 

When ANA tired contacting one of largest hotel groups, Tsogo Sun, for an update on their bookings, the group declined to comment "due to the strict and stringent safety control measures we have in place" that protects the privacy of guests.

African News Agency/ANA