An almost endless barrage of disruptions marred the Special Provincial General Council (PGC) of the African National Congress (ANC) in Limpopo that was held in Polokwane on Monday. With nominations being consolidated, branches of the organisation in Limpopo favoured ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for future party president ahead of next Saturday’s decisive national elective conference.
Announced after much delay and disorder, the results in a way saw the provincial structure being the kingmakers to reportedly slot Ramaphosa into leading position for party president prior to the 54th national conference that is scheduled to end on 21 December. The Limpopo results brought Ramaphosa’s backing for presidential favourite to a total of five provinces across the country, while those having nominated Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for president reportedly totalling four after the pronouncement of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal later the same day.
And as much as some branches in Limpopo would support Ramaphosa with the expectations to take the party – and the country for that matter – into the future, members are not oblivious to the fact that nothing is certain until the moment of truth.
Monday was a Special PGC not only of disruptions and warnings against the demonstration of individual preferences, but of the continuous display of subtle nuances and body language in a hall that brought together national and provincial leadership and delegates from branches across Limpopo.
Throughout the event numerous attempts had to be made to calm down individuals among the more than 600 delegates as cadres used varying tactics to make their voices heard. Members of the ANC’s national executive looked on as men jumped on furniture and pointed fingers at one another.
The national delegation included ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte, who later on warned that such behaviour would not be tolerated at the national elective conference.
Before he took to the podium, ANC Provincial Chairperson Stan Mathabatha apparently stepped off the stage to first secure entry for the Sekhukhune District delegation which had seemingly failed to secure access to the venue by then.
In his address he highlighted the fact that leadership of a party didn’t mean ownership and leaders should be subjected to party discipline when they erred or wronged the party, they should refuse to be surrounded by praise singers who would sing their praises even when they were in the wrong and should be reminded of the dangers of patronage. He continued to say members should be able to express themselves without any fear of losing favour with those in leadership and deployed cadres should never fear to express themselves against the views of party leaders simply because they feared to be recalled from deployment areas. For as long as such views were expressed in a manner consistent with organisational practice, members should never lose their voices, he opined.
He promoted the message of unity with references to recent regional elective conferences across the province, urging support and rallying behind elected leadership. Mathabatha continued saying that he, however, would be failing as provincial chairperson if he didn’t condemn some of the behaviour that resulted in delays of conferences and the same counted for the outstanding conference in the Waterberg district.
At that stage the delegation that was excluded from proceedings earlier on determinedly burst through the door with song, singing that they were there for their chairperson while causing an uproar among irked delegates. Upon Mathabatha continuing with his speech, he requested discipline and for those present to calm down and allow the disruptive elements to expose themselves. Talking to the purpose of the PGC, he said every time they argued about small things the image of the organisation got dented and it could easily be avoided by doing the right things. At that point he interrupted proceedings to call on security to deal with an unruly cadre, causing part of the crowd to burst into a raucous “Chupu, Chupu, Chupu”.
He went on to address the notion of always wanting to take the organisation to court. Every time it happened a mark was left within the organisation, because it simply said the organisation was unable to resolve its own problems, Mathabatha remarked.
He continued stating that they were going into what was being described as the most divided conference of the ANC – maybe simply because there were seven presidential hopefuls – and their enemies expected they would use the conference to liquidate the organisation, to only outshine each other through derogatory slogans and physical blows and to go to the conference and say nothing about policy aspirations. “My plea to all of you as delegates from Limpopo is that our contribution at this conference should be about restoring the ANC to good shape and good health. We must go there to help bring back the glory days of the African National Congress of (Oliver) Tambo. It is your revolutionary duties as delegates to go to this conference to elect leadership that is committed to the fight against corruption and related tendencies.”
In her address Duarte expressed the opinion that whoever would emerge as leader wouldn’t be leading for long without the ANC and that it was their right to make their voices known with regards to preferences in branch context that had to be respected. “Any other view is irrelevant, frankly speaking.” They had to agree that whoever was elected would be supported by all of them, she said. “If that is your perspective the ANC is slowly coming back into the room.”
She alluded to the fact that the elective conference would be different and that no ill-discipline would be tolerated, the leadership be called to remove disruptive elements and failure to do so would result in their removal. “So, what happened here today is unfortunate. Let’s put it behind us with the promise that we would not repeat this behaviour at national conference.”
To much cheering Duarte stressed that corruption should not be accepted and even in Limpopo they shouldn’t be soft on their own friends who were corrupt. “We must know that particular regions of this province are already being targeted because that’s the growth point for this province. And all that happens to us is somebody else comes in and benefits from what should be benefitted by the people of Limpopo.”
In the elective conference the economy should be discussed this time around more than discussing any other topic, she remarked. The other matter to be talked about would be the ANC, the path of the organisation being redirected and its heart that was gone, she said while referring to the “Freedom or death, victory is certain” slogan of the past. Other issues to be discussed during the national conference were listed as the right of children to education, poverty eradication, water and sanitation and the alliance partnership. “Our conference isn’t going to be a conference of sloganeering and insulting songs. It’s going to be a conference of hard politics so we emerge united as the ANC,” she pointed out. Duarte emphasised that the conference would bring inevitable change, in spite of delegates likely to bash down the door.
She concluded with food for thought by saying “This was once the jewel of the ANC; strong, united, resilient, steadfast, ANC values intact. You would talk to a comrade from Limpopo and you knew you would hear a political sound coming out of the person’s mouth. Return to that, please. Leave this thing of pointing at individuals and making politics of individuals, because leadership comes and goes but the more we hate each other the less people would vote for the ANC, because why should they?”
With Limpopo branches tipping the national scales in Ramaphosa’s favour, he received 391 nominations opposed to Dlamini-Zuma’s 104 nominations. Lindiwe Sisulu was singled out for Deputy President by ANC branches across the province, totalling 189 nominations. Gwede Mantashe emerged as favourite for National Chairpersonship with 384 nominations. Senzo Mchunu got 379 nominations for the position of Secretary-General, Losi Zingiswa 129 nominations for his deputy and Paul Mashatile 377 nominations for Treasurer-General. Several names from Limpopo were among the 288 nominated individuals proposed for additional members on the NEC.
Story: YOLANDE NEL