Leaders stand helplessly by as delegates come to blows
By Caiphus Kgosna, Sibusiso Ngalwa, George Matlala and Sibongakonke Shoba. Sourced from the Print Version of the Sunday Times - 1 July 2012
The ANC’s national policy conference degenerated into chaos behind closed doors. Despite the stage-managed facade of unity on display during President Jacob Zuma’s closing address on Friday, the Sunday Times has established that:
- The plenary session saw delegates assault each other over the party’s stance on nationalisation;
- The ANC’s top six officials — who include Zuma, deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and secretary-general Gwede Mantashe — were seen as having been emasculated as none was bold enough to call delegates to order as tempers flared;
- ANC Youth League deputy secretary-general Kenetswe Mosenogi was said to have been manhandled by Zuma’s bodyguards after she tried to confront Zuma about his failure to intervene in the chaos; and
- A North West delegate was thrown out of the conference alter he allegedly assaulted a female member over differences on nationalisation.
Throughout the policy conference, media access was tightly controlled. On Friday, journalists were sequestrated in a holding room and kept away from the plenary session — which, it has now emerged, turned chaotic.
The Sunday Times has been informed by several delegates, including those directly involved in the various fracas, that the party remains divided over key issues. These include:
- Whether or not Zuma should serve a second term, as he no longer commands unassailable support within the ANC and is likely to be challenged by Motlanthe at the Mangaung elective conference in December; and
- The proposed nationalisation of mines, which will now only be resolved in December.
While the discussion document on the “second transition” became a major political football between Zuma’s fans and his detractors, it was the debate on nationalisation that took centre stage.
A proposal calling for partial nationalisation of mines was first introduced by Mantashe on Thursday at a commission dealing with economic transformation. In terms of the proposal, which later adopted as a resolution, the state acquire a share in all future mining operations.
The call to nationalise mines is a campaigning slogan for warring factions in the ANC, with those opposed to a second term for Zuma supporting the move while his backers oppose nationalisation, saying it is costly and could scare off investors.
The Sunday Times has learned that the commotion began when ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Enoch Godongwana presented a report to the plenary session about the various options being explored.
A number of delegates who were inside the closed plenary session on the final day of the policy conference said the situation became extremely tense.
ANC Eastern Cape provincial chairman Phumulo Masualle clashed with the province’s youth league chairman, Ayanda Matiti on the matter. Police Minister and ANC NEC member Nathi Mthethwa was heckled when he tried to argue against nationalisation.
Six provinces are said to have supported the resolution, with only KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Free State — provinces known to support Zuma — opposing it.
Other ANC leaders were unhappy about the failure of the top six officials to provide direction when the situation unravelled and delegates got physical. It was suggested that their inaction was motivated by fear of offending one or other faction ahead of Mangaung — where they risk not being re-elected.
In the heat of debate, Mosenogi is said to have raised concerns about the manner in which NEC member and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe chaired the discussion.
“Kenetswe was unhappy with the way Jeff was chairing the session. She was called to order,” said a delegate who asked to remain anonymous.
When Zuma left the hail in the midst of the commotion to prepare his closing address, Mosenogi is said to have chased after him before she was shoved aside by his bodyguards.
She yesterday played down the incident, saying that she had coincidentally walked behind Zuma as he left the hall and that there was no physical contact between her and his bodyguards.
The situation degenerated further when an altercation between two delegates from North West turned violent. Delegates claim that Priscilla Williams and another delegate slugged it out over the province’s position.
The other delegate, whose name the Sunday Times could not establish, was then ejected from the conference for allegedly attacking Williams.
Youth league deputy president Ronald Lamola and National Youth Development Agency chairman Andile Lungisa are said to have taken the lead in heckling Mthethwa when he attempted to argue against nationalisation.
A leader from KwaZulu-Natal said: “We are dealing with hooligans. They wanted to cook the proposal [on nationalisation], they located people next to microphones.”
In his closing speech, Zuma said the conference had agreed that the state should have a stake in mining — without quantifying a percentage as had been suggested by some.
He said the new state-owned mining company the African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation, should be strengthened by consolidating mining assets into a single institution.
A senior NEC member, opposed to Zuma’s second term, said the conference left his faction emboldened. “Zuma is not coming back … politically he’s finished.” He said it was clear the NEC was “shocked” by the rejection of the “second transition”.
By Caiphus Kgosna, Sibusiso Ngalwa, George Matlala and Sibongakonke Shoba
Sourced from the print version of the Sunday Times newspaper – pages 1 and 2, dated Sunday, 1 July 2012.