Johannesburg - Several disgruntled ANC branches in the Free State are threatening court action over the outcomes of last weekend’s provincial conference as its leadership considers a Cabinet reshuffle.
Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela and her allies lost to co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Mxolisi Dukwana, a key ally of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Dukwana’s victory left some of the branches, especially those who backed Ntombela, unhappy. They claim the results were cooked. This was after allegations of fraud and branch manipulation dogged the ANC in the province. At the start of the conference last Friday, the registration process had to be temporarily halted following allegations of irregularities.
As a result, this upset members in some branches which are now threatening to challenge the results in court in an attempt to have the vote rerun.
Although it is not clear how many branches were unhappy with the outcomes, Johannes Makhutle, the Mangaung ward 29 branch secretary, said they were mobilising other branches who are also unhappy.
He said they are waiting on other branches to finalise their cases so they can file their application in court.
“In my branch, they removed some delegates, including my name, and appointed their owre people. In ward 28, they replaced them all and came with their team. All this happened at midnight. There were people who had not registered and they voted,” said Makhutle.
He said there were more than 10 people who were allowed to vote while they were not registered delegates. Makhutle said this showed that Dukwana’s people wanted to win by hook or crook. In Lejweleputswa, branch delegate Shima Mahlatsi, said although they were still discussing the matter, they were likely to join others in the court.
“We are still discussing the matter with the branches and see if the ANC can find a way to resolve the matter internally. We want to follow internal processes. If the matter is not resolved we will ask the court to intervene,” he said.
ANC Free State spokesperson Oupa Khoabane did not comment on the matter but said instead that issues related to the conference were dealt with by members of the ANC national executive committee and that it would adjudicated disputes.
He said ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula asked that those who felt aggrieved should direct their concerns to his office. Meanwhile, there have been murmurs that Ntombela and nine of her 10 MECs who failed to make it on to the ANC provincial executive committee could be ousted.
Dukwana was the only MEC to make it to the party’s top leadership structure in the province but, when contacted by the Sunday Independent yesterday, he would not say whether or not a reshuffle of the provincial executive in government was on the cards.
Political analyst Prof Sethulego Matebesi, who is the head of sociology at the University of the Free State, said it was normal for newly-elected leaders to face a number of challenges.
“One foremost challenge is that their supporters would want immediate and wholesale changes to be made. I will not be surprised if political careerists are not already putting pressure on the newly elected Free State leaders to remove those who failed to make the cut,” he said.
Matebesi warned that removing Ntombela at this stage would be suicidal as there is only about a year away from the national and provincial elections.
“The ANC in the Free State needs a decisive political pathway that will not repeat the political and governance mistakes of the past. But alas, this is politics and political expediency may once again ruin what seems to be a glorious opportunity to advance the interests of the residents of this province and not the skewed priorities of political leaders,” he explained.
The SACP in the Free State has called on the new leadership to be undeterred in working for the ANC’s renewal and unity and be unrelenting in confronting the structural crisis levels of unemployment, poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment, which are aggravated by corruption by brazen parasitic patronage networks and their collaborators.