The ANC top six at the ANC January 8 statement celebrations. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH
The ANC top six at the ANC January 8 statement celebrations. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH

Internal ANC factional battles are not just playing out in party structures but also starting to impede government’s work. This is a consequence of the mixed leadership elected at the ANC’s 2017 conference at Nasrec.

One recent example is the battle that led to former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo’s resignation.

But though it might be the most extreme example of the ANC’s factional battles spilling over into governance structures, it is certainly not the only case. Recently a council meeting in Pietermaritzburg did not constitute a quorum after some members from the ANC caucus did not attend.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni says the ANC’s factional battle is having a "huge" effect on governance.

"Deployment [in government] does not take into account the full capacity of the party but rather considers factions. Therefore loyalty is the litmus test rather than capacity," he tells the FM.

Fikeni says that when people who have been appointed are from the same faction, and the main reason for their appointment is loyalty, their relationship is likely to be based on patronage. This encourages corruption, and such people come to each other’s defence when it is brought to light.

He says factional leaders often use people they have deployed to work against and frustrate others rather than to advance the institution to which they are deployed.

In the North West, it took the ANC almost a month to come to a decision about who should replace Mahumapelo, who is still provincial leader of the party. Last Thursday, it finally announced that long-time administrator Job Mokgoro would be premier.

Mokgoro was the first director-general in the province after the 1994 elections and was then tasked with integrating three government administrations into one.

He was sworn in at the North West legislature on Friday.

The province was embroiled in political turmoil in May, with riots and violent demonstrations against Mahumapelo. North West was put under administration, and now the former premier and his executive are being investigated after allegations of corruption and maladministration.

Mahumapelo resigned as premier on May 23, after having to be coerced by the national leadership to do so. Earlier in May, following the protests, he indicated he would leave office, but at the 11th hour the provincial executive committee, after a meeting that he chaired, announced he would not resign but take a leave of absence.

It is understood that Mahumapelo withdrew his resignation when he realised he would be replaced by someone aligned to President Cyril Ramaphosa and not one of his loyalists.

When he eventually did resign, no candidate was ready to take over from him.

First the ANC national executive committee (NEC) was tasked with selecting a new premier. However, it rejected the names the provincial executive put forward. The matter was then referred to a special NEC meeting, which sat last week. Once again the ANC could not come to any consensus. It shifted the task of whom to select to the national working committee.

It was crunch time for the party because its constitution stipulates that if the province fails to elect a new premier within 30 days the entire provincial legislature has to be dissolved. Following the special NEC meeting the party had only three days left to select someone.

During the 27 days since Mahumapelo’s resignation little had happened in the province.

According to the opposition, a legislature meeting which was meant to take place on June 8 was postponed without reasons being given. DA North West leader Joe McGluwa complained that Mahumapelo’s resignation had not been tabled in the legislature and the opposition was not sure who the acting premier was or even whether an acting premier had been sworn in.

McGluwa says the premier’s office has become a "free for all" since there has been no leadership.

The EFF’s North West leader, Betty Diale, says the province is on the brink of collapse. She says it cannot function on "auto-pilot" as it has to do now.

In Pietermaritzburg, a majority ANC government is in charge. The mayor and the speaker are both members, as well as the councillors whose absence thwarted the establishment of a quorum.

A member of the Pietermaritzburg ANC says the group that stayed away from the meeting — in which a report about the conduct of the municipal manager was to be tabled — is from a pro-Zuma faction. It is said that the caucus is split into pro-Zuma and pro-Ramaphosa groupings.

In this way national leadership tensions have trickled down to the local level, where loyalty towards leaders has pitted ANC members against each other.

This comes regardless of the so-called unity the ANC has placed as central to its mission after the divisive Nasrec conference.

However, a lesson learnt the hard way by Dihlabeng municipality mayor Lindiwe Makhalema is that the best place to start with forging unity might be to not call the president of your party a sell-out when you are deployed at its behest.

Makhalema took to Facebook to label Ramaphosa as such. She has been suspended from party activities and ordered to vacate her mayoral post pending the completion of disciplinary procedures instituted against her.

Fikeni warns that if the ANC does not resolve these governance issues it is unlikely to do well in the crucial 2019 elections in places where factionalism is deeply embedded, and opposition parties will have an advantage.

But this means that the opposition needs to be more united and have clearer policies.

"If both the ruling party and the opposition seem to suffer from the malaise, people will become disengaged," Fikeni says. "When a choiceless choice is presented to people you normally have a very low turnout."

The ANC has been so focused on the factional battles in the provinces and the numerous court challenges, that it has had little time to focus on its 2019 campaign.

The party has given its provinces until the end of July to complete all elective conferences. The next step will be for it to put its lists together for the national elections. But judging from what the ANC has faced just trying to elect leaders in its provincial structures, the task ahead will not be easy.