Gwede Mantashe . Picture: AFP PHOTO/MUJAHID SAFODIEN
Gwede Mantashe . Picture: AFP PHOTO/MUJAHID SAFODIEN

The legitimacy of the ANC’s Eastern Cape conference came into sharp focus at a special national executive committee (NEC) meeting at the weekend and dominated discussion late into Sunday afternoon.

The meeting was held to finalise preparations for the ANC’s December conference, but by late Sunday, the party’s top brass had not moved past the first item on the agenda — a national working committee report that included the Eastern Cape issue.

President Jacob Zuma has a lot of support in the NEC, which is packed with his allies.

The key meeting was meant to finalise preparations for the December conference and also deal with disputes in other areas, including KwaZulu-Natal.

There are serious concerns among investors and the business community, as well as ANC veterans and ordinary party members, about the possibility of the December conference being delayed or collapsing.

The fight over the national working committee report at the NEC was a further indication of the high levels of tension and the factional divides in the party.

Business Day understands that the special NEC meeting was held up when the national working committee report was presented by secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

According to sources, Mantashe’s report was rejected and the NEC instructed the working committee to consolidate it and then return to the meeting so that a decision on the matter could be taken.

Report reworking

It is understood that by late Sunday afternoon, the working committee was still "consolidating" the report and the NEC had yet to reconvene to discuss it.

Sources sympathetic to presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said Mantashe was poised to face an uphill battle at the meeting due to his perceived handling of the Eastern Cape matter.

The conference in that province, held in September, turned violent and a group of delegates left the venue.

The election of the new provincial leadership went ahead, resulting in the election of former secretary Oscar Mabuyane as chairman.

The provincial conference also endorsed ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma in December.

But the faction aligned to Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma in the province, along with ousted chairman Phumulo Masualle, lodged a complaint with Luthuli House citing irregularities ahead of and during the conference.

Insiders said the Eastern Cape matter was critical to the outcome of the December conference, as the race between Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma in the province was close.

The NEC is also divided over support for the pair, with the Dlamini-Zuma faction enjoying a slight majority. An NEC decision to disband the Eastern Cape leadership would be a blow for Ramaphosa’s campaign.

If it were disbanded, the NEC would have to decide whether to reinstate the ousted committee or temporarily put in place a task team to run the province.

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