ELECTIVE Provinces vie in a numbers game for majority membership to steer leadership votes their way
ANC structures around the country have embarked on an ambitious campaign to boost numbers ahead of next year’s national elective conference. The conference, set to take place in December 2017, will choose a successor to President Jacob Zuma and elect a new national executive for the party.
Despite the ANC’s efforts at managing the succession process – including delegating senior leaders to negotiate with provincial heads to ensure an uncontested vote – some provinces are eager to have the upper hand in determining the top leadership.
While leaders have denied this on record, insiders told City Press the plan was to ensure that 60% of the conference delegates were constituted from three key provinces – Mpumalanga, Free State and North West, whose leaders have been dubbed the Premier League for their shared loyalty to Zuma – and the two Gauteng regions of Ekurhuleni and Tshwane, which are sympathetic to him.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, seen as being the president’s preferred sucessor, has the support of the Premier League and the aligned ANC women’s and youth leagues.
However, the Premier League’s list has yet to be finalised as the lobby group is believed to be struggling to accommodate the ambitions of North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo and Free State Premier Ace Magashule, who have their eyes on the influential top six executive positions.
KwaZulu-Natal, currently the biggest province in terms of ANC membership, has set a target of enlisting more than 300 000 members by next year – a figure slightly lower than the 331 820 it had before the 2012 conference in Mangaung.
The number of members dropped dramatically after that and by the midterm national general council (NGC) in 2015, the province had just over 158 000 members.
KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli said membership verification had not been done, but the ANC hoped the number would grow to more than 300 000.
“The recruitment campaign is in line with a decision ... to look into the state of our branches,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mpumalanga is understood to be well on its way to clinching a strong position at next year’s national elective conference.
Mpumalanga is alleged to have set the following targets for its four regional districts:
It aims to draw 148 000 members in Ehlanzeni, of which 100 000 should be from the capital, Mbombela; 75 000 from Bohlabela; 182 000 from Nkangala; and 138 000 from Gert Sibande. Mpumalanga had 132 729 members in 2012, but this number dropped to 96 799 in 2015. The province’s officials want to reach 543 000 members.
These efforts are aimed at ensuring two things: that a larger delegation of members from that province attends the 2017 conference, and that Mpumalanga Premier and provincial chairperson David Mabuza “steals the number two spot” and becomes deputy president.
“To secure this spot, Mpumalanga is manufacturing membership, just like it did at [the previous conference in] Mangaung in 2012,” warned an ANC provincial leader in Mpumalanga in a text message sent to leaders of Cosatu and the SA Communist Party.
Mpumalanga spokesperson Sasekani Manzini said the party had used the 2016 local government campaign to encourage casual supporters to become card-carrying members.
He said the party expected a large portion of the 692 383 people who voted for the ANC in the province to join the party. He denied that the recruitment drive was linked to the 2017 conference.
“We condemn with the contempt it deserves any perception suggesting that certain provinces are on a recruitment drive to achieve a particular outcome in the 2017 national congress,” he said.
“If there is one thing we want to achieve in that congress, it is a united and stronger ANC.”
In his organisational report to the ANC at the NGC last year, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe flagged the trend of membership numbers spiking ahead of conferences and dropping afterwards.
At the same council meeting, Zuma shocked delegates by saying ANC membership numbers had dropped dramatically from more than 1 million in 2012 to 769 000, partly due to “gate keeping” and manipulation by branch leaders.
Statistics revealed then that the ANC had lost 430 130 paying members since the Mangaung conference.
Gauteng spokesperson Nkenke Kekana said a recruitment drive was under way, but he could not stipulate a targeted number.
Free State spokesperson Thabo Meeko said the province was doing an audit of its branches and was in no rush to set targets. “We cannot panic just because of next year. In due time we will release the numbers and it will not be a secret.”
North West secretary Dakota Legoete avoided questions about targets, saying the ANC had not audited membership for the conference and would not “thumb-suck” figures.
Western Cape spokesperson Jabu Mfusi said the province had taken a firm position to rebuild branches to prepare for regional general councils and, ultimately, the provincial general council.
“We are vigorously working on increasing our membership for effective representation,” he said.
Numbers were not important for Limpopo, which suffered a setback as membership shrunk last year. Spokesperson Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said it was focusing on quality membership based on political education, rather than on quantity of members.
CAMPAIGNING ANC members at the Siyanqoba rally at Ellis Park Stadium in July. Provinces are setting targets ahead of the party’s 2017 conference