Disputes bubble up over ANC branch nominations

Senior members and branch members are already concerned that party is running behind schedule

ANC members frustrated with nomination processes as deadline to elective conference looms

Johannesburg – ANC insiders are worried that the party's December elective conference could be at risk of falling apart as more branches fail to hold quorate meetings for the nomination of presidential candidates.

The party is also dealing with an "unprecedented" number of disputes and allegations of manipulation of nomination processes at branch meetings around the country.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has dispatched national executive committee (NEC) members to all provinces to deal with the disputes. While the move is not considered irregular, branch members said they would have to work around the clock to ensure the disputes are resolved ahead of the provincial general councils to consolidate nominations.

Both senior members and branch members are already concerned that the party is running behind schedule with regards to the roadmap to the elective conference.

Branch members have said the process has been "frustrating", and "slow-paced" with meetings failing to nominate at first attempt.

The ANC has said that 70% of the branches should have already met to allow for the hotly contested December elective conference to go ahead.

It has given branches a November 15 deadline to hold branch general meetings (BGM).

Deliberate collapsing of meetings

However, Mantashe has downplayed the issues. When asked if the conference would go ahead, he said: "I think we will have a successful conference on time."

Another source though, said according to the party's timeline, BGM's should have already been concluded in October with November dedicated to disputes.

In this past week, News24 has been told of numerous complaints from supporters of the two presidential front runners, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and NEC member Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who have accused each other of manipulating the nomination process.

Accusations include: Members intentionally not attending branch meetings because they are aware their preferred presidential candidates don't have majority support, leading meetings to collapse because they don't meet the required quorum; The omission of the names of branch members in good standing from the membership registry; Branch leaders not availing the attendance registry ahead of time or hiding it, making it difficult for those in attendance to know who to inform about scheduled meetings. The registry indicates which members are in good standing; andBranch leaders not informing members and supporters of rival candidates of scheduled meetings.

ANC 'an organisation of human beings'

While Mantashe has de-emphasised the impact that the alleged slow pace of branch general meetings and disruptions could have on the elective conference, he read to News24, numerous complaints he was receiving from branch members with similar complaints.

He said it was expected for members to try and manipulate the process.

"People always try to manipulate the process. The ANC is an organisation of human beings, it's not an organisation of water [which] when you pour it goes down the slope," Mantashe said.

He said the best the party could do was put mechanisms in place to stop the "manipulation of processes".

Mantashe wrote a letter on November 3 to all provincial secretaries and appeal committee members.

In it he said his office had received numerous queries from comrades complaining that their names were not on attendance registers as they should be.

He said to address this problem, the affected members should produce all required documents, including valid membership forms, to be inspected by presiding officials. They should then be allowed to sign on the blank supplementary attendance register.

"We appeal that comrades handling this matter must do that with the highest sense of comradeship and organisational discipline, all of this done in the interest of the members and our movement," Mantashe wrote.

However, another branch member said this was not solving the problem, as "fake" members were coming to the fore and causing infighting.

"I blame the national leadership. They fail to deploy national leadership to the branches as they promised, so now people have new tactics to steal the branches," a branch member from KwaZulu-Natal said.

'Disturbing new tendency'

At least four NEC members who spoke to News24 said they were concerned that numerous BGMs across the country had collapsed, with some branches having tried three or four times to convene.

They planned to raise the issue at the NEC meeting that has been put down for Friday until Monday.

They said the deliberate collapsing of meetings ahead of the elective conference was a new tactic in the ANC.

"This is a new tendency within the ANC and it is really disturbing," an ANC NEC member told News24.

An NEC member who is closely linked to the Dlamini-Zuma campaign said he was worried about the rate of disruptions at branches in Matlosana, North West. While another said some branch leaders withheld data (meeting packages) and only released it on the day of the BGM."It's a tactic of demobilising us so that they can have more numbers. Where they are in charge they do that," he said.

Another gave News24 a blow-by-blow account of her experience of the BGMs at her own branch. She said members to whom it was clear that they would lose the nomination debate tended to refuse to sign the day's register.

"When people refuse to sign the register then we will not [meet quorum], that is the influence I saw at branch level," said the NEC member.

She also complained about the use of alcohol at meetings and the frequent fights that break out among comrades.

Anger on the ground

There have also been allegations in the North West that some members had been asked to sign the attendance register from their homes, making it appear as if they had been in attendance when they were not.

Members of a Gauteng branch told News24 of a meeting that was supposed to start at 14:00 and collapsed at 01:30 the next morning due to members not showing up and disagreements over the register.

Members of the party on the ground are just as upset as some of their leaders about unfolding processes.

At a branch west of Johannesburg, members said the branch secretary was absent from a scheduled meeting but refused to provide a clear copy of the attendance registry.

Branch members in Kwa-Zulu-Natal complained of members not appearing on the attendance register.

While in the Free State some members have raised protests against the manipulation of processes and disruptions during proceedings.

"Lots of objections were sent through to the secretary-general," said the ANC member.

One of the NEC members said they had been thinking of lodging a formal complaint, but that they were hopeful now that Mantashe had addressed the matter.

"Let's hope the processes will go well now that the SG (secretary-general) has spoken in that letter. We hope the leadership will deal with it."

The results of democracy

She confirmed that there were some executive members of the party who wanted to raise the issue when the ANC meets for its NEC meeting on Friday.

"There are tactics that these people are using... branches that support NDZ (Dlamini-Zuma), they make them (BGMs) not to meet quorum. It is a new tendency within the ANC, it's wrong," the ANC NEC member said, speaking about a branch where members have accused the branch secretary of not providing them with the branch registry.

"Those who have the data don't give our branches the data," added the leader linked to the CR17 (Ramaphosa) campaign.

Meanwhile, presidential candidate Lindiwe Sisulu has said her campaign council had also received reports of disruptions. Insiders from her campaign said the most troubled areas were KwaZulu-Natal, the North West and the Free State.

"The SG's office must resolve these issues quickly," Sisulu said.

The party is also dealing with numerous legal challenges in the three provinces. Mantashe said the legal challenges were linked to greed by factions losing conferences.

"We are getting deep into democracy, leadership positions translate into leadership in government, that translate into managing resources.

"It happens when you move into a democracy," he said.