EMBATTLED leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) in Limpopo will this weekend submit that members who have accused them of violating the party’s rules are not representing the views of branches.
Limpopo’s fate — including a possibility that ANC provincial chairman Cassel Mathale and his group may face the chop — will be decided in a two-day meeting starting on Sunday between the provincial leaders and the ANC national working committee.
Top of the agenda is the legitimacy of Mr Mathale’s leadership after party members told the working committee three weeks ago that they had lost confidence in the provincial executive committee, which was seen to be leading in a "factional manner". This comes as the ANC’s newly elected leaders are seen to be acting against regional leaders who did not support ANC president Jacob Zuma’s re-election in Mangaung in December.
Mr Mathale was also a close ally of Julius Malema, who was expelled from the party last year in part because of his attempts to weaken Mr Zuma.
Some members of the new ANC national executive committee, particularly those who are based in Limpopo and have an axe to grind with Mr Mathale, are keen to see him go. Among them is Limpopo agriculture MEC Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, who was instrumental in taking complaints against Mr Mathale to Luthuli House two weeks before the Mangaung conference.
The ANC provincial executive committee meets today to finalise its response to the national working committee, after it received written submissions on Thursday from its regional leaders. In the event that the province is disbanded, the regions could also be collapsed, but it is not a foregone conclusion.
Matome Mafikeng, ANC secretary in Limpopo’s influential Peter Mokaba region, which includes the provincial capital, Polokwane, says there is "nothing wrong" with the organisation in his region.
Mr Mafikeng said on Thursday the complaints hadbeen raised by people who were part of the opposition in the province and "not genuine ANC members".
"There is nothing raised that is organisational. Everything is just personal," Mr Mafikeng says.
But local leaders are in the dark about Luthuli House’s next move to bring the province in line. If Limpopo’s leadership is disbanded, which is what is widely expected, the resultant instability could derail the ANC’s preparations in the province for next year’s elections. Such a decision could lead to even more bitter infighting, at a crucial time when the party would need every member to be campaigning for an election victory.
"They might have to think twice about disbanding Limpopo," says a member of the provincial executive committee.
ANC regional secretary in the Vhembe region Khathu Netshifhefhe says that the ruling party is stable in his area "except for some organisational and political issues here and there". He says his region has responded to the national working committee’s queries, which among other things included allegations of abuse of power through purging and redeploying party members in local municipalities.
Secretary of the ANC’s Mopani region Bricks Manzini says the majority of the issues raised against his region have been about membership management, particularly the issuing of membership cards.
Mr Netshifhefhe says his region has been showing members the importance of being united during this time. "If the situation can go that far," he says about the possible disbandment, "we are ready as a region".