738 President Jacob Zuma flanked by John Block and Zamani Saul during the first day of the Northern Cape Provincial Congress held in Upington. 070612. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

The Northern Cape on Thursday night defied president Jacob Zuma’s injunction that the election of new leaders must be the last item on the agenda of the four-day conference.

Zuma had made the injunction while delivering his opening address of the ANC provincial congress in Upington.

But, no sooner had Zuma gone than deputy provincial secretary Alvin Botes and deputy chairman Kenny Mmoeimang and treasurer Yolande Botha were returned to their positions unopposed.

Elections for the two hotly contested positions – the provincial chairmanship position held by John Block and contested by Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources Godfrey Oliphant and that of provincial secretary, held by Zamani Saul, who was challenged by former MEC for Education in the province, Archie Lucas – were to be held late on Thursday night.

Senior ANC leaders in the Northern Cape had confirmed to The Star that their intention was to return the top five to enable them to focus on their mission to campaign for a new leadership in the ANC. A large contingent of ANC members showed their support for Block in song and dance. The majority of that contingent included members of the ANC Youth League, who appear to be in the majority of the 555 voting delegates at the conference.

The provincial conference was different to similar ANC provincial conferences during Manne Dipico’s tenure as chairman in the past decade. Then, a number of delegates arrived at the venue in Kuruman in buses and taxis – all of them representing their regions.

The situation appears to have changed drastically, as delegates now drove themselves into Die Eiland resort in expensive cars. Maseratis, 740i BMWs, ML Mercedes-Benzes, which cost more than R1 million each, were a prominent feature in the parking area.

Earlier, Zuma said: “There is a new culture (that has) emerged in the ANC – the culture to elect leaders first and then discuss later. You need to discuss policy first and then discuss strategies of how to achieve those policies.”

It was not clear if Zuma was working the ground to allow his supporters to sway the pro-Kgalema Motlanthe group in his favour during the conference, which ends on Sunday.

“I want to restate the known, but (which) appears to be forgotten – in this provincial conference we meet and take stock of the organisation. We first need to discuss what happened to the last ANC conference. We ask ourselves ‘has it succeeded to carry out its tasks? What were the challenges? What have we learnt from those challenges?’,” Zuma said.

He urged ANC members to prioritise the discussion of the political and organisational report of Block and provincial secretary Zamani Saul.

Zuma told delegates that afterwards they must break into commissions to discuss ANC policies ahead of the national policy conference at the end of the month and the national conference in Mangaung in December.

Zuma also used the occasion to launch a veiled attack on expelled ANCYL president Julius Malema and Northern Cape youth league chairman Shadrack Tlhaole. He said the ANC was faced with a growing list of people who were ill-disciplined.

“There were similar people in the past, we also know about the Gang of Eight. There are also people who are ill-disciplined – the ANC is not a factional organisation. We need to fight against ill-discipline. Factionalism will stop our plans on organisational renewal.”

Without mentioning Malema by name, Zuma said all the people who had walked away from the ANC since its inception had disappeared into political oblivion.

“The ancestors turned against them. Look at the PAC, they did not want to work with white people – therefore they were racist. They didn’t want to work with communists for wrong reasons. Lately, there was this group of people who were just angry. Where are they now?” said Zuma.

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The Star