Mantashe faces heat as ANC lock horns over ‘festival of chairs’


A heated battle over the fate of the ANC’s chaotic Eastern Cape elective conference – dubbed the “festival of chairs” – is expected to continue on Monday when the National Executive Committee reconvenes.

News24 understands the special NEC meeting had to be adjourned on Saturday and abandoned on Sunday as African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe faced the ire of President Jacob Zuma’s supporters for his handling of the conference.

The meeting differed sharply over reports by the NEC deployees and the provincial executive committee on the fate of the PEC that was elected at the fractious and violent elective conference held in October.

Sources said the NEC deployees to the conference and the newly elected provincial executive committee tabled very similar reports.

At least seven delegates were taken to hospital and one was wheeled out of the conference venue on a stretcher when violence erupted during the adoption of delegates’ credentials. Footage obtained by News24 showed delegates throwing chairs at each other.

‘Violent’ conference
Those aligned to Zuma in the NEC are said to have argued that the NEC deployees’ report was “flawed” with several things “missing” and Mantashe was slammed for allowing the elective conference to go ahead.

“Some openly accused him of being biased,” an NEC member told News24.

However, he disputed reports that there was a proposal for Mantashe to be suspended over the issue during the NEC meeting.

“That conference was violent – we can’t condone it or we will be setting a dangerous precedent.
We have in the past disbanded the provincial executive committee of the North West because delegates threw bottles at each other. In the Eastern Cape blood was spilled, how can we condone it?” the NEC member asked.

Another NEC member said the weekend meeting had to be adjourned after members of the National Working Committee started contradicting each other.

“It looked like Gwede wrote his own thing, as the NWC members were contradicting each other, that is why it was decided it was best that the NWC meets separately and report back to the NEC,” the source said.

“There was another recommendation that the appeal… [against] the conference must be heard by lawyers, but we kicked it out saying ANC matters can’t be resolved by lawyers,” he said.

NEC deployees are accused of going ahead with the conference despite then chair Phumulo Masualle adjourning it, credentials not being adopted and some delegates walking out.

“Masualle was asked if he was accepting [his] nomination while he was in hospital. What is that?”

Deliberations
NEC members who attended the conference included Zizi Kodwa, Bheki Cele, Lindiwe Zulu and Jackson Mthembu.

The NEC was adjourned on Saturday and scheduled to meet again on Sunday at 16:00.

However, the meeting had to be postponed again to 18:00 and later a decision was taken to reconvene on Monday because the NWC had yet to conclude its deliberations.

The NWC visited the province earlier this month and met with the newly elected PEC, and new provincial chair Oscar Mabuyane.

Those aligned to Masualle are heading to court this week in an attempt to nullify the conference.

At the time, sources close to the NWC deliberations with the province, said that Zuma and deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa differed sharply, with Zuma critical of Ramaphosa for endorsing the chaotic conference and the NEC deployees who oversaw the conference.

Ramaphosa was forced to apologise for saying the event was a “festival of chairs”, during his closing address of the conference.

Zuma supporters want the previous PEC headed by Masualle to be reinstated, but to operate as a task team with limited powers.

The report of the NWC is expected to be presented to the NEC when it meets today at 10:00 on Monday. – News24