15/11/2017 06:12 SAST | Updated 15/11/2017 06:12 SAST

Is The ANC Really Ready For Its National Conference?

The party's secretary-general Gwede Mantashe says 70 percent of all BGMs have been completed, but what about those disputing their outcomes?

A poster with a photo of South African president, Jacob Zuma hangs over an informal settlement, close to a voting station in Langa, on election day, during the South African local government elections, on August 3, 2016, in Cape Town.
RODGER BOSCH via Getty Images
A poster with a photo of South African president, Jacob Zuma hangs over an informal settlement, close to a voting station in Langa, on election day, during the South African local government elections, on August 3, 2016, in Cape Town.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe's report back on the party's National Executive Committee meeting has left more questions than answers, adding to speculation that the party may not be as prepared for its national conference in December as it claims to be.

Internal disputes at branch, regional and provincial levels could also bring the legitimacy of voting delegates present at the conference into question, with the ANC scrambling to get its house in order before December 16.

During a media briefing on the outcomes of a special NEC meeting at the weekend, Mantashe said 70 percent of all Branch General Meetings had already been completed. But what he did not say is just as important.

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

HuffPost SA asked how many of those branches have filed disputes with his office. His answer was that he did not have this information off hand.

It is believed dozens of disputes have been handed up to Mantashe's office from provinces like KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. The question then remains, how much of Mantashe's 70 percent consists of valid nominations that are not under a cloud of doubt?

Immediately after Mantashe's announcement, ANC KZN spokesman Mdumiseni Ntuli posted on his personal Facebook page that the secretary general's numbers were not accurate, saying Mantashe had used "old information".

Mantashe announced that 40.8 percent of KZN's BGMs were completed. He also said the deadline, which was supposed to have come into effect on Wednesday, would effectively be extended to the weekend.

But Ntuli posted a picture of what looks like an ANC report showing that 633 of the province's 806 branches had completed their BGMs.

Analysts say the figure of disputed BGMs could change the political climate ahead of the conference, indicating that the ANC may not be as prepared as they think they are.

Independent political analyst Ralph Mathekga said 70 percent was not an accurate reflection, with increasing disputes being lodged as meetings conclude.

"In the most extreme case, this could indicate that the ANC is not prepared for a clean conference. Stating that you have a dispute means there was a problem with the meeting. There is no task team that can resolve so many disputes in three weeks," Mathekga said.

"I have doubts that this sort of environment will allow for the remaining BGMs to be held peacefully and smoothly. In previous years, there were not as many outstanding BGMs at this point before a conference."

He said Mantashe was "on the defensive" during the media briefing.

The ANC also announced that it had dispatched dispute teams comprising of its NEC members to resolve inner party clashes at branch meetings throughout the country. These teams are tasked with quickly resolving disputes emanating from the nomination process.

READ: ANC Sends Crack Teams To Quell Violence At Nomination Meetings.

For example, the NEC resolved to institute an appeal panel in the Eastern Cape which will be composed of four NEC members supported by three technical resource people. At the helm of the team, former transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele.

Ndebele was charged two years ago on counts of fraud, corruption and money laundering relating to an eNatis contract in which he allegedly accepted R10 million in bribes to facilitate more than R2 billion in tenders.

Political expert Theo Venter questioned Ndebele's good standing with the party.

"Mantashe's announcement was confusing. I think he was trying to indicate that the party has been making progress. But the numbers he gave were very general. He may have been talking with the knowledge of the numbers in mind, but not the ones necessarily on paper," Venter said.

"If all 100 percent of the branch delegates do not show up to the conference, this could have a direct effect of the number of voting delegates comprised by the leagues. The conference is made up of 90 percent of branch delegates and the remaining 10 percent come from the leagues," Venter said.

"The population of voting delegates from the leagues could increase or decrease should there not be a high turnout of branch delegates. And the leagues support the Zuma faction."