20/09/2017 06:00 SAST | Updated 20/09/2017 06:01 SAST

The ANC's Presidential Race To December: Here's The Current State Of Play

Nine provinces and three months to get their houses in order.

Secretary General of the African National Congress ruling party (ANC) Gwede Mantashe (C) looks back among the crowd outside the Luthuli House, the ANC headquarters.
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Secretary General of the African National Congress ruling party (ANC) Gwede Mantashe (C) looks back among the crowd outside the Luthuli House, the ANC headquarters.


Some of the ANC's provincial and regional executive committees are in disarray, swift plans are being put in place from the top to save the party's elective conference and the clouds of factionalism grow darker by the day.

At a glance, the governing party does not seem like it is only just three months away from arguably its most significant gathering in a decade, but on the ground, the cogs are turning -- in a positive direction -- to ensure that all runs smoothly in December.

Read: The ANC Is A Party At War With Itself And The Casualties Are Piling Up

On Wednesday, News24 reported that ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has called for regional and provincial congresses to be brought to a halt after September 30, allowing attention to turn to the party's national conference.

Whatever meetings fail to take place by the issued deadline will thus be postponed to early next year.

The move represents a last-ditch attempt to ensure some sort of harmony come December, when delegates will vote for the party's new leadership.

Both PECs and RECs have little to do the voting process during the conference; 90 percent of the votes stem from the thousands of branch delegates who will attend. Therefore, whether those executive committees arrive "in good standing" or not, is fairly irrelevant to the voting process.

But, where they matter most is in the run-up to the election. Executive committees at whichever level have significant influence over the branches, using them to lobby for their desired candidate. What Mantashe has done is quell the pressure emanating from such committees on the ANC's branches.

That does not mean however, that there will be no pressure at all. Where PECs and RECs are in disarray, it is not likely that the branches will behave effectively.

Factional spats resulting in legal processes to overthrow or tarnish an executive committee -- which is currently the case in KwaZulu-Natal -- means rival groupings are given free range over the branches, making it difficult to predict how they will eventually vote.

But provinces have said that in the run-up to December, things aren't as gloomy as they may seem.

In Limpopo, the ANC's provincial elective conference is scheduled for 2018, rendering Mantashe's proclamation undemanding.

Limpopo ANC spokesman Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said out of the province's five regions, three have already completed their conferences.

"Another will take place by the end of September and the other is scheduled for October, but this date is not cast in stone. We are done with the branch audits and we are waiting for reports from the national office," Ntshavheni said.

Northern Cape
The ANC in the Northern Cape says they have noted Mantashe's memorandum and will be holding a PEC meeting next week to discuss the way forward in conducting their regional meetings.

The province's ANC spokesperson Naledi Gaosekwe said some RECs are due for conference.

"Some RECs are due for conference now and some are only due early next year. The branch audit team has been in the province and one region is still outstanding. But the process is nearly complete," Gaosekwe said.

The ANC in Gauteng say they will raise their own issues with the National Executive Committee regarding Mantashe's mandate.

"We have five regions and four are due for conference because their three-year term has expired, which means they are not in good standing," said ANC Gauteng spokesperson Nkenke Kekana.

"We will do what is constitutionally and legally correct."

Free State
Four of the five RECs in the Free State are currently in order.

ANC Free State spokesman Thabo Meeko said the remaining region is "supposed" to head to conference soon but no date has been set as yet.

"The process of auditing the branches in the province is complete," he said.

The elected PEC is in the province is currently running over its mandated term; it's elective conference, meant to have been held last month, was postponed because of issues with auditing branch membership figures.

The situation for the ANC is KZN is a lot bleaker than in the rest of the country.

On one hand, the Pietermaritzburg High Court nullified its 2015 conference, rendering the current PEC's election unlawful.

But on the other, the terms of 10 of the 11 RECs will expire before the party's national conference in December.

ANC KZN spokesman Mdumiseni Ntuli said out of the 11 RECs, only one will see its term ending in 2018.

"The elective conferences for the remaining 10 are due this year. Some expire in October and November but all would have expired by December," he said.

"The majority of the branch audits have been completed."

ANC spokesperson in Mpumalanga Sasekani Manzini said Mantashe's order is least likely to affect the province.

"All our regional conferences have been completed," she said.

ANC representatives in the North-West, the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape could not be reached for comment.

And they are not without their own problems.

Branches in the Bojanala region are also battling it out with Mantashe and the North-West leadership in court over the "constitutionality" of branches in the region.

The OR Tambo region in the Eastern Cape, which is the province's largest group, have also dragged the ANC to court in a bid to have the results of its elective conference nullified.

And the Western Cape, which has been ravaged by internal squabbles, is hoping to elect a new leader in October, before the governing party's December conference. The ANC in the province does not have a permanent leader following the suspension of Zuma backer, Marius Fransman.

At the end of the tunnel
According to the ANC's constitution, RECs should be elected after every three years and PECs after every four years.

With Mantashe rushing along the process for the party's national conference, while the fate of at least a dozen RECs are left in the air, the question remains as to how this will impact on the conference and what will then happen after a new leadership is elected.

Has the ANC considered the effects of a new leadership on PECs, whose factional rifts will be left to deepen until after its national conference? How will the party emerge united -- like it said it will -- after the conference if these wounds have not been stitched?

The ANC simply has no choice but to procrastinate on these issues. Three months is not sufficient to pull the entire machine together.

So, the party has instead taken a decision to look forward and turn a blind eye for now, perhaps in the hope that it will all work out.