Babalo Ndenze

THE ANC’s OR Tambo regional conference in the Eastern Cape descended into chaos yesterday and was eventually abandoned without a new leadership being elected following days of delays.

After four days of hold-ups and reports of orchestrated purging of pro-change delegates supporting incumbent chairman Thandekile Sabisa and regional secretary Jackson Sabona, the provincial executive committee (PEC) decided late yesterday afternoon to abandon the conference.

The regional leadership was automatically dissolved as its term had lapsed, said provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyana.

He said the PEC would meet over the next three days to decide on the next steps to follow.

“Yes, it was abandoned. The PEC said the REC (regional executive committee) must step down. I’m not too sure why. We are still waiting to hear and get a report from the PEC,” said Sabisa.

Sabisa and Sabona are both aligned with the faction in the region seeking a change in the party’s national leadership at its elective conference in Mangaung in December.

The provincial leadership, which is pro-President Jacob Zuma, wanted the two leaders to be replaced by Lulama Ngcukaitobi and William Ngozi as regional secretary and regional chairman.

The conference entered its fourth day yesterday amid lingering disputes over delegates’ credentials.

All the party managed to do during the conference was table its political report, and provincial chairman Phumulo Masualle delivered a keynote address.

Nomination for the regional leaders was expected to start late on Saturday, but went ahead only yesterday.

At one point, provincial spokesman and PEC member Mlibo Qoboshiyane said “We are waiting for results in a few minutes”, but this never happened.

Sabisa said the REC was not responsible for credentials and the registration of delegates.

“It’s the PEC that was doing the registration on its own. It was all led by the PEC. The PEC was all over, but I don’t know what happened.”

He added that he was “not hurt” by yesterday’s development and respected any decision taken by the ANC. “I’m proud that members of the ANC showed confidence in me.”

OR Tambo is the biggest region of the ANC in the Eastern Cape, and has been marked by factionalism and parallel structures in branches.

The two biggest regions in the province, Amathole and OR Tambo, have already had their regional conferences postponed several times due to disputes in branches.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the party was concerned about chaos, whether it happened at branch or regional level.

He referred all matters to the provincial leadership, which would deal with the shambles.