ANC branches in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State are crying foul over the composition of the provincial task teams appointed by the party secretariat this week, saying they favour the disbanded provincial executive committees that were suspended by the party’s national executive committee (NEC).
On Tuesday, ANC secretary general Ace Magashule announced a provincial task team for KwaZulu-Natal led by axed economic development MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu — who supports ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa — and former provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala — who supports outgoing ANC president Jacob Zuma — to oversee the re-run of the unlawful November 2015 provincial elective conference.
On Wednesday a provincial task team for the Free State was also announced, led by Magashule allies Paseka Nompondo as convener and William Bulwane as co-ordinator. Nompondo was deputy chair of the disputed Free State provincial executive committee and Bulwane had retained his post as secretary.
Magashule has been accused by ANC members from both provinces, who were part of the campaign to elect Ramaphosa as president, of loading both task teams with his allies and backers of Zuma.
ANC members in several KwaZulu-Natal regions told the Mail & Guardian they had approached Mabuyakhulu to request that he ask the national working committee of the ANC to intervene.
“There are a lot of concerns. We have asked Mabuyakhulu to take it up and we will be writing to Luthuli House,” an ANC member from Pietermaritzburg said on Wednesday. “They have turned the provincial working committee into the [provincial task team] and added a few names. Nobody who wanted a clean process [of rerunning the conference] is happy,” he said. “They just brought in the old [provincial working committee] and gave it a new name.”
“This is loaded with the unlawful executive. This is clearly a plan to steal the conference again. The same people who were responsible for stealing the last conference are running things. This is acting in bad faith,” he said.
In Magashule’s home province of the Free State, unhappy party members had started to accuse him of interfering in the composition of the provincial task team.
Party members who were supportive of Magashule’s rival, Thabo Manyoni, believed the appointments were a deliberate attempt by the secretary general to rule the province in absentia.
“We are gatvol of this man [Magashule]. He just came here and did his own thing. The people who are part of the task team are the same ones who were elected to the bogus provincial executive committee in Parys,” one senior Free State member told the M&G.
“We had thought that the people who become the co-ordinator and convenor would not be people who are also contesting for a position because that is a conflict of interest and gives an unfair advantage.”
Free State ANC members said they had hoped that after the numerous legal battles in the province last year the task team would be composed of neutral individuals. They had also hoped that the structure would have a 50-50 representation of Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma supporters.
On Tuesday, Magashule said the court had ordered that 14 branch general meetings in the Free State be rerun. This could be done within two to three weeks with assistance of members of the party’s NEC, which would oversee the process. A conference could then be held in the Free State.
He said KwaZulu-Natal appeared to be ready for the provincial task team.
“I think the comrades are ready to work together. We have allowed them to address and to talk to all of us. They committed themselves. This is the leadership we know. We have pleaded with them to say this is about all of us, not our own interests,” Magashule said.
“I saw some willingness to work together. We learn from our mistakes. You ensure that you don’t make them again.”
Magashule said that as long as the national leadership doesn’t “come with our agendas and divide the regions and we decide together with them, we can make sure that these diverse views come together”.
“We are not friends. We joined an organisation with a particular vision and common purpose. Ours is to encourage them.”
He said they had suspended the provincial executive committees rather than dissolving them because this would allow a conference to be held within three months rather than nine.
“This is something we can resolve in three months,” Magashule added.