Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

Thousands of disgruntled ANC members from five regions are calling on the national leadership to postpone the provincial elective conference until the killing of prominent party members stops and all outstanding complaints about "gatekeeping" and other contentious issues are resolved.

ANC members from Ukhahlamba, eThekwini, Lower South Coast, Harry Gwala and Moses Mabhida regions converged in Durban’s Curries Fountain Stadium on Sunday in protest. They said the ruling party’s values were being "hijacked" by individuals intent on stealing money from state institutions.

They agreed to petition the ANC national leadership to postpone the provincial elective conference, which is expected within a few weeks.

A separate meeting at the Ukhahlamba regional offices in northern KwaZulu-Natal was disrupted by ANC members brandishing traditional weapons and guns. They demanded that the provincial conference must be delayed and the regional leadership disbanded, charging that the leadership was elected "fraudulently" in December.

The KwaZulu ANC regions remain divided between supporters of former president Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In January, after a court judgment that nullified the November 2015 provincial elective conference, the ANC national executive committee was forced to appoint an interim structure led by Mike Mabuyakhulu and Sihle Zikalala and comprising members from both factions.

But the intervention has done little to ease tensions between factions.

Those supporting Zuma are led by provincial task team co-ordinator Sihle Zikalala. They want the conference as soon as possible. Their opponents, who largely support Ramaphosa and former KwaZulu premier Senzo Mchunu, want the postponement to deal with all outstanding complaints.

Speaker after speaker at the Durban rally on Sunday said there could be no "free and fair" provincial conference while "comrades are being killed".

In Moses Mabhida region outside Pietermaritzburg  ANC activists buried Musawenko "Maqatha" Mchunu on Saturday. He was gunned down by unknown assailants last week.

Mourners said Mchunu knew he was on the hit list. A few weeks ago he had led dozens of unhappy ANC members to a meeting between members of the ANC national working committee (NWC) and the regional leadership. They were protesting about prevalent ''gatekeeping'' (when politicians pursue their own political and economic ends), as well as abusing ANC processes in branches to favour the dominant faction in the region. The group led by Mchunu clashed with bodyguards and several rounds of ammunition were fired and threats were exchanged.

Sthembiso Mshengu, spokesman for the disgruntled members, said it was clear that in all the five regions problems of political murders, gatekeeping and unfair exclusion from ANC branch processes were still rife.

He said although the provincial task team was appointed to deal with these issues, it had so far failed to deal with them meaningfully.

"Many of our members in these regions feel these issues have not been dealt with. We have resolved to petition the NEC to postpone the provincial elective conference. We want a provincial leadership that has been elected in  credible and fair processes so that our people will have confidence in such a leadership.

"We are urging the national leadership to postpone the provincial conference until well-orchestrated violence against ANC members and leaders stops. We want the NEC to stop the conference until all outstanding complaints, such as gatekeeping and other corruption of ANC processes, are dealt with adequately. If the conference is held under this current atmosphere of fear and intimidation, it will be nothing but a farce and we will again approach the court to nullify the result of such a farce."

Howard Msomi, from the Lower South Coast region, said some current and former ANC leaders were behind the "elimination" of  leaders in the province.

"We know these untouchables and they don’t want to be opposed. If you oppose them they bump you off of the face of the earth. They want to create an atmosphere of fear in the organisation so that they can be able to do as they please, to loot and plunder at will," he said.

Pule Mabe, spokesman for the ANC, was not available for comment.

But Zoleka Capa-Langa, who is one of the NEC members deployed to KwaZulu to deal with complaints, said they had received the complaints from disgruntled members and would "pass them to the NEC for further discussion". She said the ANC NEC was doing everything to resolve problems in the province.

Dumisani Hlophe, a political analyst based at the University of South Africa, said divisions in the province showed that some groups had not accepted the ANC leadership under Ramaphosa. He said leaders from the winning side had not ''extended an olive branch to the vanquished''.

"Some believe that the stalemate will only be resolved by an elective conference while others strongly believe that an elective conference cannot be held while they are marginalised from taking part in ANC processes," he said.

He said this problem was only limited to KwaZulu and would not affect the performance of the ANC in next year’s general elections