BRUISED:  President Jacob Zuma arrives at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, where he was greeted by a sea of empty seats earlier in 2016. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH
BRUISED: President Jacob Zuma arrives at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, where he was greeted by a sea of empty seats earlier in 2016. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH

THE ANC in the Free State and Limpopo are squarely behind President Jacob Zuma and do not believe he can be blamed for the party’s decline in the local government elections.

The ruling party’s national executive committee, as part of its assessment since losing eight percentage points in the election, visited Limpopo, the Free State and the North West to engage its provincial membership on what had contributed to the decline.

This comes as calls from within the ANC for Zuma to resign have increased with branches in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga saying he must go.

However, ANC Limpopo secretary Nocks Seabi is adamant that not a single branch in his province called for the president to be removed saying the issue "did not arise". This was despite organisers of the "occupy Luthuli House" march on Monday saying they were expecting buses from Limpopo with members who were calling for Zuma and the entire national executive committee to go.

In what could be seen as a swipe at ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, Seabi said the province was unhappy with the way the organisation was run.

"The way we run the organisation, we no longer trust one another as branches, there is membership gatekeeping, there are factions in branches and in the whole structure of the organisation and the way the nomination process was conducted, some of the branch members were not happy," Seabi said. "What the branches decided was that whilst we take collective responsibility there must be an investigation on how we ran the nomination [for councillor candidates] process."

Mantashe chaired the party’s national list committee before the elections in August. The nomination for candidates did not go smoothly with some members complaining that candidates were imposed on them.

The ANC in the Free State is a stronger supporter of Zuma and is under the leadership of provincial chairman Ace Magashule, who is part of the dominant faction dubbed "the premier league". It agreed with the national executive committee’s resolution that it take collective responsibility for the decline and could not be attributed to an individual.

"The national executive committee is reflecting the character of the ANC. It can’t be that we want to change that character when it is convenient," the ANC’s Free State spokesman Thabo Meeko said. "We must take collective account of the challenges which are happening. [Even] leadership becomes the product of our collective engagement and collective agreement."

It seems unlikely that the ANC will go to an early elective conference as most of the provinces are against the call made by the ANC Youth League. Limpopo and the Free State have joined the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, North West and Mpumalanga in saying no to an early conference.