The ANC's top management is scrambling to quell internal tension within its local ranks, as the battle for leadership over various provinces heats up.
A special meeting of the party's national executive committee — its highest decision-making body — on Monday focused on how to bring unity to factions clashing over regional and provincial conferences in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State.
The issue of who will lead North West and replace Supra Mahumapelo as premier was also on the table.
While the NEC meeting sat on Monday, disgruntled Eastern Cape ANC members were before the High Court in Johannesburg in a bid to legally force the party to implement recommendations to disband the province's elected leadership.
In October last year, in what infamously became known as the "festival of chairs" for the brawl that broke out during the party's provincial conference, Oscar Mabuyane — a vocal Cyril Ramaphosa backer — was elected chairman of the ANC in the province.
However, the party sent a team, led by Sbu Ndebele, to investigate the outcomes of the conference and, in his feedback report, he recommended that the elected provincial executive committee headed by Mabuyane be suspended.
The court has reserved judgement in the matter, but should the application be successful, the disbanding of the PEC in Eastern Cape will deal a blow to the Ramaphosa faction in the province.
The ANC faces another battle in Free State, which may see a repeat of events last year — when courts scrapped the outcome of its provincial conference.
The Bloemfontein High Court set aside the results of the conference in which Ace Magashule (now ANC secretary-general) was re-elected — the court arriving at its decision because 14 branches that voted at the conference were found to be not properly constituted, and therefore illegal.
Free State MEC Sam Mashinini — a known ally of Magashule — was elected chairperson when the province had its second try at an elective conference last month.
But Business Day reported that only five of the 14 branches previously found illegitimate by the courts were reconstituted — yet the conference still went ahead.
In a statement from Magashule after the NEC meeting, he said the party had "endorsed and accepted" the outcomes of the conference.
The ANC has released a statement on the outcome of its special NEC meeting. It has endorsed and accepted the Free State provincial conference-which is about to be challenged in court(now that NEC accepted outcomes of conference). #ANCNEC— Clement Manyathela (@TheRealClementM) June 19, 2018
Factional battles within the party were laid bare when members of the ANC's Lower South Coast, Harry Gwala and Moses Mabhida regions — believed to be Ramaphosa loyalists — earlier this month launched an urgent application in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg to interdict the province's elective conference from going ahead.
The interdict was granted, sending the conference into disarray. The party's national leadership agreed that the conference would be downgraded to a consultative meeting while issues were resolved — but Jacob Zuma supporters in KZN would not have it, disrupting ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe's attempts to address delegates. The conference was then called off completely.
The NEC has now directed the National Dispute Resolution Committee (NDRC) to continue work with the province's task team (PTT) to address the issues raised by members responsible for the interdict.
Those KZN functionalists could not even allow the entire Chairperson of the ANC to address them busy singing in support of a criminal.— Olwethu Sipuka (@osipuka) June 9, 2018
"The NEC agreed that the PTT, working with the national officials and the NEC deployees, will ensure that the KZN provincial conference, when it sits before the end of July, focuses on substantive issues of social transformation, organisational renewal and a decisive victory in the elections," Magashule said in a statement.
The NEC also mandated its national working committee to take a decision on who will replace Mahumapelo as premier of North West. The NWC was given a deadline on Thursday and will meet on Wednesday to discuss the matter.