All eyes on ANC branch nominations
Crunch meetings this weekend will give a clearer indication of how the leadership cards are stacked
It’s “do or die” this weekend when most ANC branches nominate their candidates for national leadership positions. ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are the apparent frontrunners, with ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize and national executive committee (NEC) member Lindiwe Sisulu behind them. The branches’ nominations will be the first real indication of how much support the candidates have.
But the candidates’ supporters have accused each other of rigging the branch general meetings where the nominations are decided and of preventing the nomination of candidates from opposing factions.
The most contested nominations are taking place in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, the provinces with the most ANC members.
In KwaZulu-Natal, more than 80% of branches in 11 regions are expected to hold their general meetings this weekend, which MPL Jomo Sibiya, one of Ramaphosa’s organisers in the province, described as “do or die”.
Sibiya said a large number of branches failed to hold their meetings last weekend, some because regional executive committee deployees did not turn up on time, so most would take place this weekend. Those that didn’t would hold theirs on November 4 and 5.
Sibiya said Nquthu’s ward 5 branch members waited from 10.30am to 5.30pm but the regional deployee never arrived. “We are concerned that the regions are doing this on purpose to frustrate branches which are not backing their choice of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as candidate for president,” Sibiya said.
Branches also complained that members who had been part of the membership audit and qualified to participate had been removed from the voters’ rolls, and that other people who were not on the rolls had been allowed to participate, he said.
There is strong support for Ramaphosa in regions such as Inkosi Bhambatha, eMalahleni, Lower South Coast, Abaqulusi and Far North, he said.
Sibiya said a verified figure for the province showed that Dlamini-Zuma had been nominated by 58 branches and Ramaphosa by 24. The bulk of Dlamini-Zuma’s support came from eThekwini (34 branches) and Moses Mabhida (12).
Fourteen branches will meet in Mpumalanga this weekend and, although the province is expected to deliver votes for Dlamini-Zuma, Ramaphosa and Mkhize appear to have secured the support of influential regional leaders.
Apparently, most branches in the Ekangala and the Bohlabela regions are backing Ramaphosa but those in the Ehlanzeni and Gert Sibande regions are expected to back the choice of provincial chairperson and Premier David Mabuza.
Lagging behind the presidential candidates in the province is former ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa, whose supporters claim has made inroads there. His national organiser, Ronnie Malomane, said: “Things are tense here. As I say all these things to you, I could become a target … but … I can confidently say that our president [Phosa] is doing very well.”
Disputes over the convening of branch general meetings have scuppered the process of nominating national leaders in the Eastern Cape.
The party’s provincial executive committee (PEC) endorsed Ramaphosa after its first meeting two weeks ago. But regional leaders from the Joe Gqabi, Nelson Mandela Bay and Amathole regions have delayed their branch general meetings because of a dispute over the provincial conference. They joined 10 former PEC members who disputed the outcome of the conference at which Oscar Mabuyane was elected to replace Premier Phumulo Masualle as chairperson.
NEC members will visit the province this weekend, when a decision on their appeal could be taken.
But Eastern Cape secretary Lulama Ngcukaitobi said not all the nominations have been delayed by the dispute.
“There are regions that have not submitted programmes for [branch general meetings] but individual branches have submitted their programme. In Amathole, there are many branches; the branches are eager to continue. And that applies to Nelson Mandela Bay, Joe Gqabi and other regions,” Ngcukaitobi said.
In the Free State, tensions between pro-Ramaphosa and pro-DlaminiZuma groups resulted in violence in the Lejweleputswa region on Sunday, when a party member was stabbed.
Most of the Free State’s 291 qualifying branches are expected to meet this weekend. The province’s ANC chairperson, Ace Magashule, is a vocal Dlamini-Zuma backer and is expected to deliver most branches to her. But supporters of Free State deputy chairperson Thabo Manyoni believe they could persuade the branches to back Ramaphosa.
The Northern Cape’s Francis Baard regional secretary, Webster Dichaba, has been reported to national ANC officials for allegedly convening branch general meetings without the rest of the region’s knowledge. ANC provincial chairperson Thapelo Dithebe said the region was a Dlamini-Zuma stronghold, with 35 of the 65 branches backing her, but Dichaba supports Ramaphosa’s campaign. The Namaqua and John Taolo Gaetsewe regions are also expected to back Dlamini-Zuma.
The province endorsed Ramaphosa immediately after its conference, at which regions supporting Premier Sylvia Lucas walked out after her faction refused to participate in the election. Provincial secretary Deshi Ngxanga said most of the branches are nominating Ramaphosa, in line with their endorsement.
The Western Cape is expected to line up behind Ramaphosa and will announce its preferred leaders in the second week of November, although Dlamini-Zuma’s supporters will fiercely contest the branch meetings.
In Gauteng, only 100 of the 470 branches have convened meetings. Early trends in the Tshwane and Johannesburg regions indicate support for Ramaphosa, and nearly 80% of the branches that have held meetings have nominated him.
Last week, Ramaphosa drew a large crowd in the North West, despite provincial leaders saying he campaigned in the area without their blessing.
ANC provincial chairperson Supra Mahumapelo is expected to deliver massive support to Dlamini-Zuma, but he faces a rebellion by branches in the Ngaka Modiri Molema and Bojanala regions. Most branch meetings in the province are expected to take place this weekend.
The leadership contest has intensified in Limpopo and Dlamini-Zuma has started to make inroads, challenging Ramaphosa’s home-ground advantage. The threat of her growing presence is believed to have been behind Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha’s decision to reshuffle his Cabinet on Wednesday. He is apparently backing Ramaphosa.
Former co-operative governance MEC Makoma Makhurupetje, a known Dlamini-Zuma lobbyist, was shifted to the transport department, a move some say is designed to keep her influence over traditional leaders in check. In September, Makhurupetje accompanied Dlamini-Zuma on a visit to the large Mopani region, where insiders said 60% of branches were expected to vote for her.
Earlier this month transport minister Joe Maswanganyi also flanked Dlamini-Zuma on a visit to the Sekhukhune region, which is Mathabatha’s stronghold. But Sekhukhune is believed to be backing Ramaphosa, as is the Vhembe region.