ANC rifts in Eastern Cape spill into open

Eastern Cape Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi
File picture: Brian Witbooi

Party statement lambasts MEC for ‘sabotaging’ activism event

Deep divisions between the Eastern Cape ANC and Bhisho have spilt into the open with less than three weeks to go before the national elective conference.

The party in the province gave Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi a public dressing down yesterday, accusing her of sabotaging the country’s official launch of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children by changing the venue.

The event was held at Nelson Mandela University’s Missionvale campus on Saturday, but poor turnout and President Jacob Zuma’s absence saw it flop.

Minister of Women Susan Shabangu stepped in as keynote speaker.

Sihlwayi was blamed for the embarrassment – and further accused of campaigning for presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at a government event, something the party said she would have to account for.

A statement rebuking her claimed she had moved the event from the Alfred Nzo district, despite party objections.

Analysts said the recriminations were expected as the ANC moved closer to its elective conference, beginning on December 16.

It is also a clear sign that factions remain divided after a tempestuous provincial conference in September/October, when warring delegates clashed and ultimately voted to replace premier Phumulo Masualle as chairman with Oscar Mabuyane, a result that was hotly disputed.

In an interview yesterday, newly elected ANC provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukayitobi said they viewed Saturday’s failed launch as wasteful expenditure and would demand that Sihlwayi “pay back the money”.

He said guests had been given pro-DlaminiZuma T-shirts at the event.

“The ANC states in its manifesto that if any decision [causes a] waste [of] resources then individuals must be personally held responsible,” Ngcukayitobi said.

In an earlier statement, Ngcukayitobi said the poor turnout was unsurprising.

“The event was deliberately sabotaged by Sihlwayi who, out of stubbornness and recklessness, decided against both the advice and decision of all authoritative bodies to remove the pre-planned event from Alfred Nzo [municipality] to the Nelson Mandela metro.”

He said the move had been made “to satisfy her thirst to serve the factional political attitude”.

Contacted for comment, Sihlwayi said she would not engage in “public mudslinging”, and that she was putting together a report for Masualle, the person to whom she would account.

“I am a disciplined member of the ANC and will not be engaging in a public war of words which will not help anyone but will only strip naked the name of the organisation,” she said.

The move against her comes a week after ANC provincial executive member Mziwonke Ndabeni called on the party to recall Masualle to avoid the so-called “two centres of power”.

Sihlwayi is in the same ANC faction as Masualle.

Responding to the matter of poor attendance, provincial communications head Mandisa Titi said the size of the audience was acceptable, but suggested the football match between Chippa United and Sundowns was a negative factor.

Titi also said the government could not dictate what community members wore to events.

But Ngcukayitobi was adamant Sihlwayi should explain how much was spent on the event and why it collapsed.

“Most importantly of all, we want to know how she is going to recover the money which was basically wasteful expenditure.

“We are on record saying it is wrong for ANC MECs, mayors and premiers to engage in acts that constitute a waste of public money and nothing is done to them, while taxpayers are held responsible for things that could have been avoided.”

Zuma’s spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, could not confirm why the president did not attend.

Ngcukayitobi, in the statement, said: “We know as a matter of fact that no president in any straight mind would have embraced an event which was as disorganised as the one hosted on Saturday, whose principal aim was to distribute ANC factional T-shirts.”

Political analyst Dr Joleen Steyn-Kotze said yesterday the public disagreement indicated the ANC had reached a crossroads.

“In the ANC’s history, they’ve always operated on a principle of unity when it came to the public.”

She said the factional battles had now reached a point where “they either need a very strong leader who can unite the party or this particular elective conference is going to break them”.

Although factionalism had existed in the country’s political sphere since 2007, it did not bode well for the upcoming conference.

“It seems the people in the ANC do not trust the internal procedures and that is a huge problem heading towards a conference to elect new leadership,” Steyn-Kotze said.

“The biggest question remains what strategies the new party leader, whether it be Dlamini-Zuma or Cyril Ramaphosa, will employ to restore unity [after the conference].”

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the public factionalism was to be expected as the executive and leadership were sitting on opposing sides.

He said seeing that the party was so close to its national elective conference, politicians were more likely to be playing games.

“It comes as no surprise,” Fikeni said. “It also emphasises the divisions taking place between the executive and the ANC, which makes it very difficult for the province to mobilise or to do the work it is supposed to be doing.”

ANC spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni declined to comment, saying only that the province was already addressing this with the government. – Additional reporting Daily Dispatch

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