TO RE­PLACE JOHN BLOCK

North­ern Cape ANC branches are in chaos and di­vided into two fac­tions, with in­fight­ing lead­ing to po­lice con­fis­cat­ing deadly weapons at meet­ing

CityPress - - News - SETUMO STONE setumo.stone@city­press.co.za

The last ANC prov­ince that was a lead­ing ex­am­ple of unity and sta­bil­ity, the North­ern Cape, is crum­bling due to a di­vi­sive lead­er­ship con­test. For years, un­der ANC boss John Block, the prov­ince was safe from the de­cay that crip­pled both the party and gov­ern­ment across the coun­try.

But with Block now off the radar fol­low­ing a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion in 2015, his friends have turned into en­e­mies in the push to as­sume the lead­er­ship reins.

Since prepa­ra­tions for the pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day started, po­lice have had their hands full con­fis­cat­ing pan­gas, un­li­censed firearms and sim­i­lar deadly weapons from ANC mem­bers at­tend­ing branch meet­ings.

Some party lead­ers, in­clud­ing at re­gional level, have body­guards. Last month, the pro­vin­cial ANC lek­gotla was dis­rupted by dis­grun­tled mem­bers, leav­ing the up­com­ing pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment lek­gotla and state of the prov­ince ad­dress in limbo.

ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe held a marathon meet­ing with pro­vin­cial lead­ers at Frances Baard District Mu­nic­i­pal­ity cham­bers in Kim­ber­ley re­cently.

Out­side the cham­bers, a group of ANC mem­bers staged a protest as they waited to get a chance to fast-track their griev­ances to the na­tional lead­er­ship. An op­pos­ing group gath­ered to de­fend its lead­ers.

For­mer com­bat­ants of the ANC’s Umkhonto weSizwe mil­i­tary wing helped po­lice keep a close watch on the de­vel­op­ments.

One day was not enough for the meet­ing to be con­cluded, but, be­fore it ended, spec­u­la­tion was rife that some re­gions were dis­banded and that the pro­vin­cial con­fer­ence would be post­poned, send­ing the pro­vin­cial ANC into dam­age-con­trol mode.

City Press heard that Block had ap­pointed deputy pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary Alvin Botes as sec­re­tary. Botes’ cam­paign, dubbed “Sylvin”, in­cludes North­ern Cape Premier Sylvia Lu­cas as chair – which would be a first for any ANC prov­ince.

How­ever, sup­port­ers of pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary Za­mani Saul say it is their man’s turn to take over. They chanted “Zamdesh”, which al­ludes to hav­ing Saul as chair­per­son and Deshi Ngxanga as sec­re­tary.

Saul has al­ready given sub­tle hints that he will back Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa to suc­ceed Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma at the ANC na­tional con­fer­ence later this year.

Botes’ back­ers “do not have a prob­lem with Ramaphosa”, said a lob­by­ist, but would rather give ANC branch mem­bers space to de­ter­mine the prov­ince’s po­si­tion with­out un­due in­flu­ence from lead­ers.

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza, also an as­pi­rant ANC top-six leader, en­joys some level of sym­pa­thy in the prov­ince, par­tic­u­larly among lead­ers in the big­gest of the five re­gions, Frances Baard.

Botes is a prod­uct of the ANC Youth League and has been cred­ited with play­ing a key role in es­tab­lish­ing struc­tures such as the Na­tional Youth De­vel­op­ment Agency in the North­ern Cape – which prompted Block to bring him un­der his wing.

Saul ap­par­ently first met Block at uni­ver­sity. When Saul first came to the prov­ince years ago, City Press heard, he had been in­structed by the ANC to meet Block, who was then an un­der­cover ac­tivist work­ing as a petrol at­ten­dant.

Ali Diteme, an ANC spokesper­son for the Frances Baard district, said that, out of the re­gion’s 55 branches, only 48 had passed the au­dit.

“How­ever, we have picked up that, in some of our branches, there is a gen­eral feel­ing that mem­ber­ships in good stand­ing have been ex­cluded from the au­dit pro­cesses,” Diteme said.

He said a re­gional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing was con­vened to deal with the dis­putes, but the struc­ture could not reach a con­sen­sus be­cause 10 out of the 24 mem­bers aligned with Saul staged a walk­out, in­clud­ing the deputy chair­per­son, the sec­re­tary, the deputy sec­re­tary and the trea­surer.

“The ma­jor prob­lem with the walk­out is that it cre­ated space for par­al­lel branch gen­eral meet­ings. And these cre­ated a se­ri­ous cri­sis in the re­gion, where we started to have in­fight­ing, dur­ing which some mem­bers were pep­per sprayed, and women were abused and so forth,” he said.

“As we speak, the re­gion is in a state of paral­y­sis and fac­ing a se­ri­ous cri­sis. Cur­rently, we are sit­ting with a dis­pute af­fect­ing 28 branches as a re­sult of al­le­ga­tions of mem­ber­ship ma­nip­u­la­tion and rig­ging of branch gen­eral meet­ings.”

Another re­gional leader said the cri­sis was “well or­ches­trated”.

He said the meet­ing was ex­pected to pro­nounce on the pre­ferred lead­er­ship and those who re­alised they were los­ing had staged a walk­out.

“For the first time, we saw gang­sters and for­mer con­victs call­ing them­selves se­cu­rity for cer­tain re­gional lead­ers. They ... de­cide who at­tends meet­ings. That ma­nip­u­la­tion and rig­ging is pro­tected by [Saul], who op­er­ates with four re­gional sec­re­taries on his side.”

In the Pix­ley Ka Seme re­gion in De Aar, City Press got through to spokesper­son An­drew Sam­son, how­ever, re­gional sec­re­tary Khat­hazile To­long later told the pa­per that Sam­son was not even a mem­ber of the ANC re­gional ex­ec­u­tive.

To­long said the de­ci­sion by 38 of the 43 branches in good stand­ing was to sup­port Saul.

How­ever, Sam­son said the re­gion did not make a de­ci­sion to sup­port Saul. He said sub­re­gional lead­ers were given the in­struc­tion to sup­port Saul by the re­gional sec­re­tary in Au­gust.

“We are be­ing told that this is the line of march, but we be­lieve we should be al­lowed to have a suc­ces­sion de­bate where or­di­nary ANC mem­bers are al­lowed to ex­press their views,” he said.

He said mem­bers were be­ing in­tim­i­dated so that they would sup­port Saul, and some, in­clud­ing may­ors, feared los­ing their jobs if they did not.

ANC spokesper­son in the John Taolo Gaet­sewe re­gion, Kamo­gelo Se­ma­mai, said branch gen­eral meet­ings “are be­ing stolen”.

“This other lobby group that claims to have the up­per hand in ad­min­is­tra­tion is busy ma­nip­u­lat­ing meet­ings,” said Se­ma­mai.

“They have a per­ma­nent rented crowd of thugs who go to meet­ings with weapons and dis­rupt pro­cesses.”

How­ever, deputy chair­per­son of the re­gion and mayor of Ga-Se­gonyana Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, Neo Masegela, said those who were ac­cus­ing Saul of wrong­do­ing were cut from the same cloth as those who be­lieved he was do­ing good.

“We re­spect the pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary and he has been nom­i­nated by ANC mem­bers in the prov­ince to lead,” said Masegela.

TALK TO US Should the ANC al­low the can­di­dates for the pro­vin­cial chair­man­ship to pub­licly de­bate how they would serve the or­gan­i­sa­tion to give mem­bers a chance to get to know them?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word BLOCK and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

CHAL­LENGER Za­mani Saul

CHAL­LENGER Alvin Botes

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