One of the two fiercely opposing groups in the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) claims that ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has a hidden hand in the organisation’s deepening leadership squabble.
Last week the Johannesburg High Court was expected to hear arguments in the dispute between the two Sanco groups fighting for leadership, but the matter was postponed to enable all necessary documents to be filed before a trial date was set.
A flurry of letters was exchanged between the two alliance partners between February and May, in which the group led by Mathabo Leeto sought to get recognition from the ANC secretariat under Magashule.
But, City Press learnt, it came to naught because Magashule was “siding” with the group led by Richard Mdakane, whose mandate was allegedly dissolved in January when “seven provinces” invoked a constitutional clause to dissolve his national executive committee because it had “failed to convene a national congress within five years”.
A national interim leadership committee was formed – with a mandate to take Sanco to national congress within three months – but “other comrades decided to convene the bogus national congress attended by two provinces, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape”.
Mdakane disagreed, saying his national executive committee was still legitimate and that Magashule “has been the most honest comrade in these issues and he has not taken sides”.
Instead, he accused his opponents of trying to hijack Sanco and turn it into a political party that would have contested the May 8 elections because those behind the plot were “hungry for parliamentary posts”.
He said: “Sanco would die if it were to become a political party because as a mass organisation it housed people from different political parties.”
Although he said the agenda to turn Sanco into a political party was defeated, Mdakane – a former ANC MP – cautioned that his opponents almost won because people were hungry to be deployed in Parliament.
In a letter on February 6, a seemingly frustrated Sanco interim committee wrote a scathing letter to Magashule – for the third time without reply – warning him to be “transparent and not choose one side over the other while working towards resolving any misunderstanding that might arise within Sanco”.
It appears that the ANC had deployed David Mahlobo, the deputy water and sanitation minister, and Alvin Botes, the deputy minister of international relations and cooperation, to help Sanco resolve the impasse.
A few weeks later an attempt by the Mdakane group to interdict a national congress planned by the interim committee flopped, and Leeto was subsequently elected as the new president of Sanco.
Another letter was sent to Magashule, proposing a meeting. Among the agenda items was the role Sanco would play in the ANC list and deployment committees as well as its election campaign programme.
Sanco spokesperson Packet Seaketso, elected with Leeto as her first deputy president, told City Press that Magashule was a stumbling block in the efforts to resolve the organisation’s leadership dispute.
“The reality is that there is a high interest from the office of the secretariat of the ANC,” Seaketso said, adding that even after Mdakane was ousted, he had still been invited to the ANC national executive committee lekgotla in January, forcing Leeto’s group to stage a protest and have him and his entourage removed.
“All Sanco leaders were then told by the ANC not to participate in the lekgotla so we can go and solve our mess,” Seaketso said.
He said that after Leeto was elected president, “Magashule took other Sanco people to Indonesia”.
“Even at the ANC’s Siyanqoba rally in Durban he invited the two Sanco structures, but he could not hide that he is more on the Mdakane side.”
Seaketso said it seemed as if Magashule had a personal gripe with Leeto, who also serves as MEC of sports and recreation in the Free State – a province Magashule dominated for decades.
He claimed that Magashule even removed Leeto from number 86 to 140 on the ANC’s list for the national elections. “Clearly he is fighting with her,” he said.
But Mdakane said it was a fact that Leeto “hates Magashule”.
“Some of them accuse Magashule because they wanted to go to Parliament and when the ANC processes are different, they start throwing allegations,” he said.
Seaketso said tension had escalated to the point that Magashule was helping Mdakane’s group to establish task teams in some Sanco provinces that did not agree with him.
For example, he said, in the North West none of the people chosen had been Sanco members. Instead, he said, all of them backed former premier Supra Mahumapelo – a close ally of Magashule.
Mdakane said Sanco in the North West had no structures and its provincial executive committee meetings could not form a quorum.
“That is the problem and that is why last month we took the decision to appoint a provincial task team. I think it was the correct decision and it is not about who supports you and who does not.”
He said the door was open for some of his opponents to simply apologise and they would be brought back into the fold because, as president of the organisation, he was concerned with unity.
The ANC did not comment.