Disgruntled ANC Free State members have lost their battle to have the party's national executive committee (NEC) set aside the provincial conference that elected allies of the party's national secretary-general (and former Free State premier), Ace Magashule, to lead the province.
However, following a "long and arduous" debate, the NEC, which is the ANC's highest decision-making body, reached a compromise and gave the instruction that the disputed provincial executive committee (PEC) must "reach out" to the disgruntled members and work with them.
At least four sources have told News24 that the NEC had to reach a compromise, despite a legal challenge hanging over it.
"A compromise was reached that the new Free State leadership should invite and bring on board all those who were sidelined when the conference was organised," the source said.
Disgruntled Free State ANC members had served the party with legal papers, threatening to approach the courts again to nullify the conference.
That would have made it the second Free State provincial conference to be challenged in court in six months.
In December, the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein nullified a provincial elective conference that had re-elected Magashule as chair. It ruled that the conference was unlawful and ordered a rerun of some branch general meetings.
The disputed conference last month elected Sam Mashinini as chair and William Bulwane as deputy, while those who opposed Magashule's tenure did not attend.
The disgruntled members claimed in their legal papers that the conference did not have the blessing of the ANC's National Working Committee (NWC), responsible for the day-to-day running of the party.
They also claimed that they only saw posters on social media just days before the conference that it was going ahead. The group also disputed an audit report used for the conference, arguing that it had expired.
Sources said the NEC special meeting to discuss the state of the conferences on Monday decided that for the "sake of unity" the executive must not be disbanded.
"They must include other comrades so that there is unity in the organisation, because the conference has already sat. The only other option is inclusivity, they must co-opt the aggrieved members into the PEC," another NEC member told News24.
Regarding leadership issues in North West, the NEC again failed to agree on a candidate to replace Supra Mahumapelo, who resigned last month following a strong push from within the party and alliance partners to oust him.
The NEC has left the decision to the NWC, which is expected to meet this week.
The NWC has a tight deadline of Wednesday, as the premier has to be in place by Thursday — 30 days after Mahumapelo's resignation. If they fail to decide on a candidate by then, the legislature will have to be dissolved.
Another NEC member said Gauteng premier David Makhura disputed Magashule's comments that all Gauteng regional conferences planned for this weekend had been cancelled.
Magashule announced that the conferences were postponed on the sidelines of the NEC meeting.
Spokesperson Pule Mabe told News24 that the regional conferences had not been halted, but that instead the province would be meeting with NEC deployees to iron out concerns from disgruntled members.
"What the SG [secretary-general] was saying is that as they sit for all their conferences, they must make sure they have attended to all the different concerns, so they don't fall into the trap of court challenges," Mabe said.
Members on the West Rand marched to St Georges Hotel, where the meeting was being held, claiming that they were being excluded from next month's provincial congress.