The elective conference in the ANC’s volatile Harry Gwala region has been postponed until after the party’s national conference, to prevent further bloodshed and divisions.

Sindiso Magaqa, the former ANC Youth League secretary-general and councillor, was the fifth councillor to be killed in the region when he succumbed to gun shot wounds about two weeks ago. He and two other councilors had been ambushed in Umzimkhulu in July after attending a political meeting.

Magaqa was laid to rest in Umzimkhulu last Saturday. Jabulile Mzizi and Nontshikelelo Mafa, the two fellow councilors who were with Magaqa when they came under attack, said they were still living in fear and have received death threats since they have returned from hospital.

Magaqa’s supporters say he had agreed to stand for leadership position to "end corruption in the region" shortly before his death.

The Harry Gwala ANC regional elective conference was due to take place in September or October, but on Tuesday, ANC provincial spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli said the conference had been postponed indefinitely.

"A few days ago we received a letter from secretary-general [of the ANC Gwede Mantashe] telling us that all conferences which had not taken place by September 30 must be postponed until after the December national elective conference. We fully support that decision and we think it was appropriate in the case of Harry Gwala region, where tension and mistrust among comrades is very high," Ntuli said.

He added that the provincial leadership — whose legitimacy is under question after the High Court in Pietermaritzburg’s decision that nullified the results of the November 2015 ANC provincial elective conference — met ANC branches, councillors and regional leaders of the Harry Gwala region on Monday.

"Our meeting did take place on Monday. We felt for ourselves that the tension and fear is very high. Some of the disputes started after last year’s regional general council, other disputes developed during the local government (councilor) selection processes.

"Some of the comrades we met made damning allegations of corruption in the [five] municipalities [and] in the and we felt these needed further investigation by both the ANC and by relevant government agencies. We promised to come back to the region within two weeks," Ntuli said.

A regional leader who attended the meeting and asked not to be named, said some branches questioned the provincial leadership’s legitimacy and its ability to solve the party’s problem, given that it was facing its own legal and political troubles.

"Some party members stated that it would be better to wait for the national executive committee (NEC) to take a decision first before engaging the provincial leadership to solve the Harry Gwala [regional] problems. What if the NEC appoints a task team to run the province and we have to start the process all over again?" the leader said.

"But we fully supported the move to postpone the regional elective conference because clearly it could not take place under such conditions, when people are dying left, right and centre."

In a related development, Mantashe banned regional and provincial congresses from taking place after September 30, to prevent disruptions to the party’s national conference in December.

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