ANC Free State chairperson Ace Magashule. File picture: Timothy Bernard/ANA
Bloemfontein - Fear gripped the Free State ANC’s top brass on Monday after questions about the legality of the party’s provincial elective conference became clear, forcing the leaders to abandon proceedings for almost the whole day to discuss a court action brought by rebels.

The provincial executive committee is at loggerheads with some of its structures over the alleged flouting of processes in the convening of branch general meetings.

Last month, disgruntled members from 29 branches blocked the conference from going ahead after they successfully approached the Free State High Court to declare their branch meetings in the lead-up to the conference illegal.

The ANC was ordered to first convene all 29 branches in compliance with the party’s constitution before it held the two-day conference, which started on Sunday.

But it emerged on Monday that 32% of the party’s branches in good standing were not part of the provincial conference and that the disgruntled members were launching a court bid to block the conference from continuing, as well as the Free State’s participation in the upcoming national elective conference.

Provincial ANC chairperson Ace Magashule is leading a dominant group in the province which backs presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, while his deputy Thabo Manyoni is leading a group aligned to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

On Monday, the ANC’s Free State spokesperson Thabo Meeko said while the provincial leadership had resolved to go ahead with the conference, they were sensitive to the litigation against them by some from within the party, which is why the conference proceedings were delayed.

“We also have to deal with these other issues of the court,” Meeko said. He lashed out at those who interdicted the party over processes to convene the national conference.

“Ultimately, people have to internalise the fact that there must be outcomes of the democratic process.

“We have done everything insofar as we are concerned for the Free State ANC to attend the national conference. The ANC must be able to conduct and conclude its business. It can’t be a never-ending process,” he said.

By 5.30pm yesterday, there were no signs of the second day of the conference continuing, with delegates scattered in groups outside the venue and caucusing.

While messages of support had been read by alliance partners and a political report delivered by Magashule on Sunday night, no credentials had been adopted by the elective congress as provincial leaders were locked in a meeting with a delegation from the national executive committee.

Political Bureau