Pretoria - In a major twist, the ANC in Limpopo has distanced itself from provincial chairperson and premier Stan Mathabatha’s endorsement of Cyril Ramaphosa’s second term bid, saying it was his “personal opinion” and “derogation of the ANC’s conference conventions”.
In a telephonic interview with the Pretoria News, provincial secretary Soviet Lekganyane said Mathabatha’s assertions on January 8 were “avoidable”, adding it was “unnecessary to pronounce at such an event”.
He stressed that the Limpopo ANC had never discussed preferred candidates ahead of the party’s 55th national conference in December.
“As the principal spokesperson of the ANC in the province I can tell you now that the statement was not an official pronouncement of the ANC and must be treated as a personal opinion which was unnecessary to pronounce at such an event. It’s derogation of the ANC’s conference conventions. Now we have to explain things that are unnecessary. We don’t have to keep reminding each other of the conventions of the ANC,” Lekganyane said.
He said Mathabatha’s statement also sowed disunity within the governing party.
“In the three years I have been provincial secretary we have not discussed the national conference. The pronouncements were avoidable. January 8 was supposed to have been used as a platform to build confidence within South Africans and bring about unity. The NEC had not rang any bells for pronouncements,” Lekganyane added.
This came as some ANC branches in the province lambasted Mathabatha, calling on him to withdraw the endorsement. They also called on the ANC national executive committee (NEC) to take action against him.
Mathabatha, at the party’s 110th anniversary celebrations in Polokwane last week, declared that the ANC in the province would support Ramaphosa getting a second term, saying the province recently conducted successful registration conferences in Norman Mashabane, Vhembe, Sekhukhune and Peter Mokaba regions.
He added that branches of the ANC expressed their support for Ramaphosa’s leadership.
However, some branches in Limpopo have come out guns blazing, demanding to know where Mathabatha got the mandate to make that pronouncement.
In a letter written by branch chairperson Fistos Mafela from ward 8 (Sumbandila Branch) in Musina, and addressed to the party’s headquarters, Luthuli House, titled “Concern about the early pronouncement by the Limpopo provincial chairperson (Mathabatha)”, they state that Mathabatha acted on his own without consulting branches. It read in part: “I have a serious concern about the pronouncement made by the Limpopo provincial chairperson, which I regard as a violation of the ANC constitution.
“The chairperson declared publicly that he fully supports a second term for President Ramaphosa. But according to the ANC nobody is allowed to pronounce the leadership before the ANC opens a succession debate.”
The letter further accused Mathabatha of using his elected position to serve his own interests.
“I would like to know where those comrades got the mandate to make such pronouncements as it is only branches who must speak and not individuals.”
Speaking to the Pretoria News, Mafela, a known member of the Radical Economic Transformation forces aligned to suspended party general secretary Ace Magashule, called for Mathabatha to withdraw his statement until the party opened the succession debate.
He said: “The chairperson must withdraw his statement until the ANC opens its succession debates, and wait for the Provincial General Counsel (PGC). Only the PGC can show us how many branches/delegates are supporting available candidates.”
Mafela said he had written the letter in his personal capacity and sent it to ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte’s office. “We must wait for the ANC to open a succession debate and we are going to nominate comrades who will save our organisation and save it. Many branches are complaining about the pronouncement without a mandate,” Mafela said.
Another branch secretary, Joseph Baloi of Tlou Tefu Branch in Moletjie outside Polokwane, shared Mafela’s assertions.
“I agree with the chairperson (Mafela) that the discussion document has not yet been pronounced, and the succession debate has not started. However, I wish to refrain from that engagement because it has not been discussed at branch level yet. The right time will come where we will make pronouncements.”
Simon Matome, chairperson of the Ike Maphotho branch in Polokwane said there was nothing to comment on because his branch had not discussed anything.
Party spokesperson Pule Mabe ignored texts sent by Pretoria News. Mathabatha’s phone rang unanswered.