At least 300 ANC branches have been disqualified from attending the party’s crucial elective conference at Nasrec this weekend after failing to hold branch general meetings (BGMs) to nominate leaders.
A member of the ANC dispute adjudication committee, Billy Masetlha, and numerous ANC officials confirmed this on Thursday.
But several of these branches are allegedly trying to force their way into the national conference in a desperate bid to support their candidates.
One such example is in Limpopo, where the signature of a branch chairperson was forged to legitimise a fake attendance register, and three people were chosen as delegates despite the BGM not taking place.
In North West, ANC members in Rustenburg have made similar claims, after the ward 16 branch failed to hold a BGM but appointed a delegate to the national conference.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said he knew of 26 branches in Mpumalanga that had not successfully held their BGMs, yet had elected delegates.
Mthembu said ward 11 branch in Ackerville township in Emalahleni, where his son is a member, had elected a Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ) delegate to attend the conference despite failing to form a quorum.
“That branch sat and didn’t quorate and the meeting couldn’t continue because even the deployee didn’t bring the official package — they were writing on a notebook,” Mthembu said. “I was not there personally but my son Mandla was there. Notwithstanding that, the entire branch is supportive of CR17 [Cyril Ramaphosa] but they have an NDZ delegate.”
Western Cape ANC leader Faiez Jacobs said there were about 40 branches that didn’t hold BGMs. But he was hesitant to withdraw his delegates while it seemed provinces with similar complaints were intent on being represented by a full delegation.
“It’s clear that 170 branches in KZN [KwaZulu-Natal] can’t go to conference if there is no legitimate proof they held BGMs — but they are pushing it by force,” he said. “In the Western Cape, we’ve kept to the rules, we had little numbers but we couldn’t get our act together for those 40 branches and we lost those. We’ve accepted the rules. They must accept the rules as well.”
KwaZulu-Natal ANC secretary Super Zuma conceded that the delegation numbers in his province would probably be reduced, but denied that there were as many as 170 branches that had not held BGMs.
“That’s nonsense … It’s not that much … But in all provinces, I don’t think anyone will get a 100% of the delegations. It affects all provinces. But, in terms of the delegation that is coming to the national conference, I don’t think there would be huge cuts,” said Zuma.
A heated debate on the credentials of branches present is expected at the opening of conference on Saturday and if an agreement isn’t reached, the gathering could collapse.
There are also fears that the conference could be interdicted by branch leaders unhappy with the handling of the dispute process.
But Masetlha this week warned that any attempts to legitimise bogus delegates would be thwarted.
“What I know for a fact is that none of the people who did not have BGMs at all, or who were not nominated at BGMs, can actually have access to any part of our conference, not one,” he said. “They can take their chances, they will not be allowed. It will take some miracle for somebody who did not have a BGM.
“We have the actual documents from the branches that was signed on the day they all met … And we’ve found them [people who tried to fraudulently register]. There are obviously chance-takers. It’s not a lot but there are several cases. Some of them have actually been manipulated by the provincial leaders, but it doesn’t work. Those things will not collapse conference at all. I don’t think that any of my leaders, including NDZ and CR, would agree that this be done in their name.”
All nine provinces are expecting a reduction in the number of delegates, because not all branches met the December 5 deadline to hold nomination meetings, and others were disrupted and are being disputed.
The exact number of delegates who will not be coming to conference will only be confirmed during the presentation of credentials on Saturday.
The contest to replace president Jacob Zuma between ANC MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to go down to the wire, and revised delegation numbers could determine the winner.
Limpopo ward 31 branch chairperson Madikela Makgaba confirmed that his signature had been forged and that his branch never held a branch general meeting. In an official complaint to the Limpopo ANC headquarters and national office bearers, Magkaba explains that the branch failed to hold a BGM three times and couldn’t reach a quorum, and he was surprised to see his signature on the attendance register.
“On the last [BGM] the gate keys for the school [where the meeting was to take place] could not be obtained and the regional deployee had to turn back. We qualify for three delegates and could not nominate any. Surprisingly we noted the names of three delegates to attend the Limpopo special PGC [provincial general council] and we fought and barred that. However, we are afraid that these bogus and self-proclaimed delegates will proceed to national conference,” Makgaba said this week.
He claimed the attendance register submitted to provincial headquarters is fake. “On investigation it appeared that a signature campaign was made. For the same date of failed meeting we note there is attendance register signed fraudulently for members, including for branch chairperson [myself] with another [regional] deployee Comrade Lehlogonolo Masoga, who never came to the branch.
“We notified both region and province but feel that this matter is not fully dealt with. We also tried national office but due to red tape cannot get immediate access,” he said.
The branch secretary, Mperekeng Seabi, who was registered as a delegate to the PGC and is supposed to attend the national conference, said he was not aware of the dispute. But in an email sent by Seabi to Makgaba, he instructs him to formulate a report about the branch’s failure to hold a BGM.
Asked this week whether his branch had nominated national leaders, Seabi said: “I can’t answer the media. We are going to conference and many people are coming with their tactics of the media.”
He refused to say whether a nomination meeting was held.
North West provincial secretary Dakota Legoete says similar cases have been reported to the dispute committee but insists that all delegates going to the conference from the province are legitimate. “We have dealt with about 25 cases of reported false delegates.
The cases were reported to the PEC [provincial executive committee] and then taken to the dispute committee and we have since had 25 reruns and some of the outcomes have been appealed … all the delegates we are sending can be accounted for. Some of these allegations of false delegates are unfounded and based on some comrades’ refusal to accept defeat and now they are trying to derail the process.”
Mthembu said affected branches were fighting back and that such incidents had been reported to regional leaders and officials responsible for delegate registration with the hope that they would be able to weed out bogus delegates. Failing that, he said the issue would have to be raised from the conference floor as it undermined the ANC’s organisational values.