Rifts within the ANC in Mpumalanga as well as with Deputy President David Mabuza have been cited as reasons for the formation of a new political party, according to insiders.
The formation of the SA National Congress of Traditional Authorities (Sancota), said a member of the ANC’s provincial executive committee (PEC), was the outcome of factionalism, which had thrived when Mabuza was the ANC’s provincial chairperson.
Sancota is targeting ANC councillors in the local municipalities of Bushbuckridge, eMalahleni, Govan Mbeki and Thaba Chweu, where by-elections will soon be held as some councillors have already resigned.
“The challenge of factionalism that is facing the ANC breeds opposition parties,” said the PEC member.
“First, it was the EFF, which was formed by our own comrades such as Collen Sedibe [who is currently the EFF’s provincial chairperson], who were alienated.
“It was the same thing with the formation of the Bushbuckridge Residents’ Association.”
However, provincial ANC secretary Mandla Ndlovu denied that Sancota’s formation was a sign of disunity within the ANC.
“There are many new political parties and we cannot say it is because the ANC is disunited,” said Ndlovu.
“Individuals want to lead and the ANC is big. We must also look at the motives of these individuals who form new parties … they just want to have their own thing.
“We acknowledge that Sancota poached a few of our members, but most of them rejected [Sancota’s overtures] because they cannot be bought,” he said.
Sancota is in alliance with a nongovernmental organisation – the Practical Radical Economic Transformation of SA (PretSA) – which used to be an ANC ally.
PretSA was formed in 2017 by Themba Sigudla, Mabuza’s close associate and a benefactor of his DD Mabuza Foundation.
When he was Mpumalanga premier, Mabuza instructed his government to work hand in hand with PretSA.
This led to the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the provincial government which aimed to unlock business opportunities for unemployed youths.
Mabuza and Sigudla shared a platform in addressing Mpumalanga youths, and the organisation embarked on a bid to strong-arm private companies, such as RCL Foods and Sasol, to accede to its demands to open up procurement processes for the unemployed.
PretSA acquired so much power, it also became a strong voice in the ANC in Mpumalanga and began pronouncing its preferred leaders – because, it claimed, its members were also ANC branch members.
Just before the ANC’s December 2017 national elective conference in Nasrec, Johannesburg, where Mabuza was elected deputy president, PretSA played a key role in recruiting new ANC branch members.
This ensured that Mpumalanga went to the conference with the second-largest number of delegates after KwaZulu-Natal.
However, ANC branches were upset by the organisation’s increasing influence because most of the party’s programmes were beginning to revolve around PretSA.
Prior to the Nasrec conference, PretSA had pronounced that it preferred Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to be the party’s next president.
That was when everyone thought Mabuza was also throwing his lot behind Dlamini-Zuma. But at the eleventh hour, he changed tack and supported Cyril Ramaphosa as the party’s next president.
However, soon after Mabuza was elected ANC deputy president, the relationship between him and Sigudla soured to the point where Sigudla threatened to sue the provincial government for R150 million if it did not implement the MOA.
In August last year, Mabuza was expected to be a guest speaker as a patron of the Mpumalanga Show – an annual event to showcase the province’s offerings in agriculture, forestry, tourism, wildlife, mining and energy – but he did not show up after a behind-the-scenes row erupted between Sigudla and newly appointed premier Refilwe Mtshweni.
Sigudla allegedly did not want Mtshweni to introduce Mabuza before he addressed the delegation, as protocol dictates. He also accused Mtshweni’s government of withholding funds.
Sigudla said the show had cost about R18 million and that government had contributed nothing, despite having promised to inject R15 million.
Mabuza’s spokesperson, Thami Ngwenya, did not respond to questions sent to him by City Press via WhatsApp, nor did he answer his phone.
Mpumalanga has failed to convene a provincial general council to elect Mabuza’s replacement, and it looks unlikely that it will do so until the party holds its elective conference later this year.
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