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ANC leaders butt heads over step-aside rule

Nomusa Dube-Ncube, Paul Mashatile and Sihle Zikalala at the 9th ANC KZN conference held in Durban. Picture: ANC KwaZulu-Natal/Facebook

Nomusa Dube-Ncube, Paul Mashatile and Sihle Zikalala at the 9th ANC KZN conference held in Durban. Picture: ANC KwaZulu-Natal/Facebook

Published Jul 31, 2022


TWO leaders of the ANC’s biggest-by-branch provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, are at loggerheads on the step-aside rule.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal wants to see the rule scrapped entirely, while the governing party’s Eastern Cape province is adamant that the rule should be retained, to strengthen the renewal efforts of the organisation.

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The difference of opinion between Bheki Mtolo, ANC provincial secretary in Kwazulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Premier and the party’s provincial chairperson Oscar Mabuyane, were shared outside the party’s national policy conference, currently underway in Nasrec, Joburg, where the two leaders spoke to Sunday Independent.

The newly-elected Mtolo said the step-aside rule should be scrapped because it doesn’t comply with the supreme law of the country.

“The constitution is very simple: if I am charged, I am presumed innocent until proven guilty. The state must send me to court and the NPA must prove the case. If I am found guilty, I am a criminal and I can’t serve anywhere. But the step-aside says I am guilty as charged. That’s what apartheid did. They were detaining people without trial and it can’t be accepted,” said Mtolo.

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Mtolo said the resolution on the step-aside rule that was adopted at the 2017 elective conference, also held at Nasrec, Joburg, has been used to prevent the majority view within the ANC and to target certain factions within the party.

Mtolo said this step-aside rule was also used to protect Ramaphosa and his allies.

“It has been selective. You know the issues that were raised about the Eastern Cape premier (Mabuyane). There were many issues, including issues of Master’s qualifications. But he (Ramaphosa) speaks here as if Mabuyane has got moral authority. Because he knows that he’s part of the establishment that protects him,” said Mtolo.

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The Hawks are the South African Police Service’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, which targets organised crime, economic crime, corruption, and other serious crime referred to it by the Presid

Mabuyane faced an investigation by the Hawks, which investigates high-level organised crime, over claims that former ANC Eastern Cape provincial treasurer Babalo Madikizela paid for renovations to his house using state funds siphoned from the Mbizana Local Municipality in April 2018. It was alleged that Mabuyane used more than R450 000 of the R3.3 memorial fund of Winnie Madikizela Mandela to renovate his house.

A similar finding against Mabuyane was made by the now suspended Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, but her ruling had since been set aside by the High Court in the Eastern Cape.

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According to Mtolo, these allegations were enough for the ANC to ensure that Mabuyane must step aside, but the premier would hear none of it.

Mabuyane on the other hand, said the step-aside rule has been regulated and that the party has agreed that all those who are criminally charged should step aside until a court rules otherwise.

He said the step-aside rule should be kept for the sake of the renewal of the party, saying there should be no turning back (on its implementation).

“All of us must just accept that reality for the ANC to continue leading this country. Renewal came as a result of our own swot (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis in the ANC, the diagnostic report and strategy and tactics that have been adopted in our conferences. We can’t coexist with all these malfeasances (sic) that we have had in the ANC.

“The ANC has realised some serious trust deficit with society, and for it to continue being the leader in society, it must be about drastically stopping some of the nonsense that we see within our organisation,” said Mabuyane.

The difference in opinion on the step-aside rule comes as ANC delegates are expected to make a final decision on the ANC’s renewal policy rules that include members agreeing to undergo lifestyle audits and vetting in the party’s bid to weed out the rot of corruption and fraud among members of the party.

The debates on organisational renewal and other policies lasted until late last night (Saturday, July 30, 2022) and were still expected to continue today before a final recommendation is reached by consensus from all parties involved in the various debates.

However, former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, when he addressed the media about his impression of the policy conference, said yesterday afternoon, that the debates and discussions at the conference had not touched on the step-aside rule.

Motlanthe said the party was focused on how best to improve the quality of membership. He also defended the ANC’s Integrity Commission, which some members have accused of being involved in factional battles.

“The Integrity Commission is not a disciplinary structure. Theirs is to ensure that the integrity of policy and the organisation itself is never compromised and they listen to and interview those who are referred to them and they come up with recommendations,” Motlanthe said.

On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa attributed factions within the ANC as a battle between those who want to steal public resources and those who want to renew the ANC which has recently suffered huge electoral losses in recent elections due to some senior members being implicated in wrongdoing.

"These are not divisions about policies or ideology, but are driven by the competition for positions, the contestation of structures and the pursuit of access to public resources. These divisions manifest themselves in patronage, gatekeeping, vote buying and manipulation of organisational processes.

“These divisions are driven by corruption and the need by those responsible for corruption to avoid detection and accountability.

“The weaknesses in our organisation are felt beyond our structures. We can see the impact of our divisions and faults in our Alliance partners and formations of the broader democratic movement,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the divisions have weakened governance in many areas, undermined public institutions and hampered the maintenance of infrastructure and the provision of services.

“These were among the challenges identified at the 54th National Congress in 2017, and which informed the firm decision of that conference to embark on a programme of fundamental renewal and rebuilding. Despite trying circumstances, the ANC is showing signs of renewal and we are continuing to forge unity around several issues.

“We have been able to make progress around the process of organisational rebuilding, where our branches were able to hold BGMs in the midst of the pandemic and undertake campaigns in communities.

“It is significant that, as we prepared for this Policy Conference, around 4 000 branches held BGMs and many regions and provinces have held successful conferences,” Ramaphosa said.

He appealed to delegates to opt for the renewal of the ANC in their bid to regain majority control after the upcoming 2024 national elections.