ANC branches in a scramble
Hundreds of branches risk being left out of conference with less than a month to go
The number of delegates to the ANC’s national congress in Mangaung is likely to be reduced to below the anticipated 4 500 delegates should the party’s branches fail to hold branch general meetings (BGMs) within the next nine days.
At least 600 branches in seven provinces are yet to hold their meetings (the deadline is November 26) and risk being disqualified from attending the conference next month.
Even those that have completed the meetings need to go through a verification process, which is meant to establish if they adhered to ANC rules such as reaching a quorum when the meetings were held.
Those that fail the verification process will be disqualified.
In recent weeks, branch meetings have been delayed due to incidents of violence, failure to quorate and the omission of branch members from lists before meetings.
Gauteng is racing against time to hold 200 out of 500 branch meetings before the cut-off. Gauteng ANC spokesperson Dumisa Ntuli said the provincial leadership had dealt with incidents of disruption, assault and intimidation in a few branches in Ekurhuleni, Sedibeng and on the West Rand.
Ntuli said the biggest problem for branches has been to get the timing of their meetings right because holding meetings on weekends was at times not suitable for some members. Transport was also a problem for branches that held meetings at night.
“It was a mistake to not allow a longer (nominations) process so branches can discuss policy and nominate,” Ntuli said.
He said Gauteng had tightened security measures to prevent isolated incidents of intimidation.
In Eastern Cape – which will take the second-highest number of delegates to Mangaung after KwaZulu-Natal – more than 200 out of 676 branches are yet to meet.
Provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane said more than 450 branches had successfully held meetings, and 250 of those had undergone verification. Of those that had been verified, 229 had passed the audit.
Mabuyane said some of the branches had been “sabotaged” by regional leaders who clung on to attendance registers and didn’t coordinate meetings well.
In some cases, branch members had relocated to other provinces, which made it difficult for their branches to form a quorum.
KwaZulu-Natal, with the most branches at 974, is in a final push to hold the last round of BGMs this week in a bid to meet the deadline.
Ethekwini, the biggest region in the province, went to its regional general council meeting yesterday despite several branches not having held BGMs as required.
Among those outstanding is the Lamontville branch – to which former police commissioner Bheki Cele belongs – which was still to re-convene its suspended meeting, which was abandoned after conflict over its voters roll.
On Thursday night, provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala and chairperson Zweli Mkhize both dismissed claims the branch process was being manipulated to sideline Cele’s branch for not supporting Zuma’s re-election.
“There is no foul play,” Mkhize said.
In North West, where Mangaung factions are aligned to either the provincial chairperson Supra Mahumapelo or provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge, the figures differ depending on the faction.
Mataboge, who is linked to the “pro-change” group that seeks to replace ANC president Jacob Zuma with his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe, said only 90 branches out of 232 have managed to hold BGMs, with 142 still outstanding. Those who want Zuma re-elected, however, put the figures of successfully held BGMs at 186.
Mataboge said: “Failure to reach quorum, disruptions, violence, rigging of processes and non-appearance on attendance registers have contributed to the slow process. For example, we have to re-run the whole Ngaka Modiri Molema region as the attendance registers were given to parallel branches.”
The region has 74 branches in good standing.
But Mahumapelo said he suspects the province’s numbers are being reduced deliberately by pro-change leaders.
“We’re working with people who’ve already given up so they’ll do anything to reduce the provincial numbers.”
Free State is scheduled to hold its provincial general council in Sasolburg on Thursday, where it will announce the results of its 275 BGMs. Branches yet to meet have until then to do so.
Provincial ANC spokesperson Oupa Khoabane said 12 branches – mainly in bigger towns and Bloemfontein – still have to hold their BGMs.
“Branches in the CBDs are especially struggling,” he said.
In Mpumalanga, 32 branches out of 408 are yet to hold their BGMs. Delays have been attributed to the failure to quorate and problems with verifying members’ identity.
However, rank and file ANC members claim some members in good standing were struck off the database because they differ with the provincial leadership on who should be elected in Mangaung.
Mpumalanga ANC spokesperson Sibusiso Themba says communication problems were the main reason for branches’ failure to reach a quorum.
“SMSes don’t reach other branch members or their phones are switched off,” Themba said.
Northern Cape is yet to hold 19 of its 170 BGMs. The province’s ANC spokesperson, Gail Parker, said: “Some of our branches have large membership numbers and it’s difficult to reach a quorum.”