With the “Nasrec 68” seemingly holding the fate of the ANC secretary general post in their hands, newly elected ANC deputy president David Mabuza sprung a surprise when he reportedly came out in support of former KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu.
The Mail & Guardian has learnt that during the ANC national conference steering committee meeting to find a solution for the “Nasrec 68”, Mabuza supported those who had called for their votes to be included in the tally of all candidates who contested the top six positions.
The steering committee failed to resolve the impasse, instead leaving it up to the main plenary with ordinary delegates to decide.
The 68 were initially part of the more than 500 delegates disqualified during the vetting of credentials. Soon after, the 68 were cleared as legitimate delegates and categorised as special voting delegates because there was not enough time to put them on the voters’ roll before elections took place.
The lawyers for the Nasrec 68 are understood to have given the ANC until 6pm on Tuesday to include the votes or face legal action. It is not clear whether the party met the deadline, but voting for the NEC additional members was delayed last night after only 400 delegates had cast their votes. At the time of writing, provincial secretaries had been called into another steering committee meeting by the top leadership. An SMS message circulating among delegates claimed there had been mistakes on the ballot papers.
The committee consists of the party’s secretariat and chairpersons of provinces and leagues. The debate about the 68 delegates was the first sign of division in the newly elected leadership, which comprises three members from each faction’s slate. It delayed NEC voting for most of Tuesday.
Mabuza was supported by treasurer general Paul Mashatile, national chairperson Gwede Mantashe and several other provinces. The Mpumalanga ANC chairperson was thought to be closer to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Free State Premier Ace Magashule and North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo in the run-up to the conference.
Mchunu was on newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa’s slate and was instrumental in splitting KwaZulu-Natal’s vote.
But in the steering committee meeting Mabuza disagreed with Mahumapelo, who was pushing for a re-election if the 68 votes were to be included. Mahumapelo, who was backed by Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, has warned the Ramaphosa supporters that if they continue pushing for inclusion of the 68 votes, his province will demand a re-run of the election. The KwaZulu-Natal leadership has dug in even further, demanding that the credential process be re-run along with the election.
“We are in support of the entire top six of the ANC. If these were to be included, credentials will have to be done all over again as they are not on legitimate voters roll,” said KwaZulu-Natal ANC Youth League chairperson Kwazi Mshengu.
On Tuesday the ANC Women’s League accused Mabuza of “using” Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign to secure senior positions in the party.
The majority of the 68 votes are from KwaZulu-Natal and appear to favour Mchunu. If added they could swing the outcome for the secretary general’s position, given that the difference between votes for Mchunu and Magashule is 24.
Magashule’s supporters refused the proposal, demanding a re-election of the top six if the 68 votes were to be added to the final tallies.
Mchunu’s supporters argued that the 68 delegates were legitimately mandated to attend conference and were left off the voters’ roll through a technical mistake by the elections agency, EleXions.
Denying them the right to vote, one of Mchunu’s supporters said, would be subverting the internal democracy of the ANC.
“The NDZ guys were resisting the proposal to count the [Nasrec] 68’s votes and add them because they know the result. Most of those guys left out are from the Abaqulusi region, which is Senzo’s stronghold,” a provincial leader told the M&G.
The error allegedly arose from the revision of credentials on Saturday. The 68 members were among the KwaZulu-Natal branches disqualified during the dispute and verification period a week before the conference. They were readmitted when the credentials committee confirmed their legitimacy on Saturday.
The EleXions agency also recommended adding the 68 delegates’ ballots to the results, the leader said, but it had left the final decision up to the committee.
Mabuza’s about-turn in Tuesday’s meeting was not the first time he has broken ranks with what used to be known as the “premier league” — an alliance between the chairpersons of KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, North West and Mpumalanga.
At the policy conference, Mahumapelo and KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Sihle Zikalala led the debate on land redistribution without compensation. Mabuza argued that land should only be redistributed within the parameters of the Constitution.
He was also accused by Dlamini-Zuma’s backers at the conference of instructing 353 delegates from 223 branches in Mpumalanga, who nominated “unity” on their ballot papers, to vote for Ramaphosa.
With Mabuza’s intervention failing in the steering committee, Ramaphosa’s supporters geared up to win the debate in the main plenary.
“We have the numbers to push this in plenary,” said a Ramaphosa supporting delegate from KwaZulu-Natal. “The branches want Senzo and we are ready to deal with this on the floor.”