THE African National Congress (ANC) is embroiled in rows about the voting rights of delegates to its national conference, which could result in considerable delays to the start of the gathering in Mangaung — or even its collapse.
Complaints about delegate credentials — equivalent to a voters’ roll — are emerging largely from pro-change ANC provincial structures that have nominated Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to replace President Jacob Zuma as leader of the party.
Following provincial nomination conferences held last month, Mr Zuma was firmly in the lead for the top spot. He was nominated by six provinces, the ANC Women’s League and its veterans’ league.
Mr Motlanthe was nominated by the ANC in Gauteng, Limpopo, the Western Cape and by the party’s youth league.
Gauteng leaders are expected to complain at the conference, when it gets under way on Sunday, that some branches which did not hold properly constituted meetings to nominate leaders have been allowed by party officials to send delegates.
They cite the example of the Diepsloot branch, which was disqualified by the ANC’s Gauteng office, but on appeal was allowed by party leaders at its headquarters in Luthuli House in Johannesburg to send a delegate.
The Diepsloot delegate is Pule Mabe, treasurer of the ANC Youth League. He declined on Wednesday to comment on questions relating to the branch, saying it was an internal ANC matter.
ANC leaders in the Eastern Cape have also complained about the disqualification of branch delegates who opposed Mr Zuma’s re-election.
Thandekile Sabisa, chairman of the OR Tambo region, said that members were investigating irregularities relating to the disqualification of branches.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Wednesday that credentials were "generally difficult". Asked if he was concerned that the disputes could delay the conference, he said: "I don’t know. Normally the credentials are one of the most difficult items in many conferences."
Senior ANC officials on Wednesday tried to douse disputes relating to the party’s Waterberg region in Limpopo. Its hotly contested nomination conference this month supported Mr Motlanthe.
Mr Zuma’s backers, who had walked out of the Limpopo nomination conference, on Wednesday claimed a small victory. Sixty-five members from the Waterberg region were reinstated as delegates to the conference after they were apparently replaced with "bogus delegates", a Limpopo ANC leader said.
Waterberg ANC chairman Morris Mataboge confirmed that the ANC’s dispute committee had reinstated the delegates.
"We are here at Luthuli House. We appealed, and the disputes were resolved by the committee," he said.
This means that 65 delegates from Limpopo would endorse Mr Zuma at the conference, and not Mr Motlanthe, who has the backing of the provincial leadership.
Limpopo ANC spokesman Mathiva Makonde said he had heard about the 65 delegates being reinstated, but had not received official word.
He said if it was true, the Limpopo delegation would have to raise the matter at the start of the conference. "We will have to establish whether people who did not qualify (as delegates) are now registered to go to the conference. If it is established as a fact, we will ask for clarity," he said.
Mr Mantashe said the Waterberg delegates were not "reinstated", but merely registered so they could attend the conference.
In North West, delegates are taking the ANC to court claiming they were removed and replaced with "bogus" delegates.
A supporter of Mr Motlanthe in North West, Bongani Mvala — who had been replaced as a delegate — said delegates were also going to lobby those who were going to the conference.
"What we will do is to mandate those who have gained access to the conference to raise the matter inside," he said.
Youth league spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni-Khawe said the league had noted "procedural concerns" in many provinces. She said these would be raised at the start of the conference. "The issue of credentials, we believe, is one that is going to be rigorously debated," she said.