ANC leaders call off neck-and-neck polls in top region of Eastern Cape
THE African National Congress’s (ANC’s) Eastern Cape provincial leadership last night abandoned elections for a new regional executive in the party’s second-biggest region just before the outcome was to be announced.
The conference in the OR Tambo region pitted supporters of a second term as ANC leader for President Jacob Zuma against a pro-change lobby widely referred to as ABZ (Anyone But Zuma).
The party’s provincial spokesman, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, said the election was abandoned when more people voted than had been registered and accepted as delegates for the region’s conference, which started last Friday.
"We discovered there were four additional delegates on top of the adopted 587 delegates.
"As the provincial executive committee, we saw the conference adopted wrong credentials, which ploughed it into crisis. We then advised that the conference be reconvened for another time."
No date was set for another attempt at holding the conference in the fractured ANC region.
According to sources inside the conference and to an SMS which circulated among delegates, outgoing regional chairman Thandekile Sabisa defeated pro-Zuma challenger William Ngozi by 296 votes to 295.
Delegates angry at the decision rejected the result and accused the pro-Zuma lobby of engineering the exclusion of more than 100 members of anti-Zuma branches from the gathering.
It was not clear after the conference whether the outgoing regional executive committee was still in charge or whether the region had been left without an executive committee, in which case the provincial leadership would be likely to take over.
The conference was derailed seconds before leaders, who had already taken to the stage after long delays, were about to announce the election results.
The announcement was shelved after provincial deputy secretary and Eastern Cape human settlements MEC Helen Sauls-August took to the stage to speak privately to party leaders as they prepared to reveal the outcome of the vote.
After she had spoken to them, the entire group followed her off the stage and headed straight for a caucus room where they stayed for half an hour.
The media was asked to leave when they returned to the stage.
Delegates, who spoke from inside the closed session, said the announcement was called off after Ms Sauls-August, who had been in charge of accreditation and the voting, had lodged a dispute about the outcome.
"I do not understand why she lodged a dispute, because she was in charge of everything. In fact, it puzzled us that she brought people from Port Elizabeth to be in charge of the elections," said a delegate.
The conference started last Friday and was scheduled to end at 2pm on Sunday. Registration was slow, however, and it got under way only on Saturday, with some appeals still outstanding.
Credentials were finally approved in the early hours of Sunday morning, paving the way for the delegates to vote.
Counting took more than four hours, with almost 600 ballots on the table.
Some delegates again blamed the pro-Zuma provincial executive committee for the delay, claiming it had brought branches which "had not been approved" to the conference.
"They are trying to win this conference by hook or by crook. We are prepared to stay here for the whole week. All I know is they will finally announce the results," said a delegate.
Another, supporting Mr Zuma’s second term as ANC president, also voiced his concern at the delay of the results.
"We all know that they are doing all in their powers to lead this region," the irate delegate said.
OR Tambo is the ANC’s second-biggest region after eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal. Its support could be an important factor in Mr Zuma’s bid to be elected for a second term at the party’s conference in December.
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