How much credit should we give credentials?


ANC branches will send their delegates to the elective conference with a mandate to vote in a particular manner. These party members will arrive with the credentials to represent their branches, however the most crucial decisions are made in late night meetings. Mphuthumi Ntabeni argues that the actual voting, most of the time, is nothing more than rubber stamping the decisions of these late night clandestine meetings.

As the processing of credentials towards the ANC elective conference gets underway the party spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, said they received more than four thousand media coverage request, but could only approve a thousand due to space. And that the delegates will also begin arriving from Thursday to be processed until Friday night.

According to Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, no special concessions would be made at the venue and the official tally of the expected delegates was 4,723 with the total number of delegates estimated to be 5,248.

There has been public confusion about lack of democracy from those who think party delegates are allocated according to provincial population. This is not the case, rather the number is determined by party statistics. Hence Mpumalanga, the fifth most populated province in our country, gets almost twice the number of delegates as Gauteng. And the Western Cape has least delegates of all provinces.

What is clear is that the provinces with most metros have less delegates, meaning, urban residents are deserting the ANC. The party’s strength now seem to fast be falling on rural areas. This also means that, because of moribund political activism, especially among our middle class, the greater number of our population shall soon be reigned over by the rural minority. Plato’s platitude about paying a heavy price by being ruled by your inferiors when you’re took haughty to participate in politics still applies.

Potential battles on the floor and in court

The much anticipated conference is scheduled to commence at 09h00 AM on Saturday, the country's Reconciliation Day. By evening, if things go to plan, the party will have a new president. In political conferences elections are won or lost on the credentials, that is the allocation of voting delegates. This process is of utmost importance because it gives a conference its proper constitutional status. If you get it wrong by authorising the wrong delegates, the entire conference can be challenged within the party structures or in a court of law. Credential disputes have been known to delay conferences, even collapse others, leading to violence on the venue precinct.

On Tuesday some disgruntled members of the ANC in the Free State filed papers with the Bloemfontein High Court‚ wanting it to declare the outcomes of the provincial general council that elected Free State delegates last Sunday and Monday null‚ void‚ unlawful and unconstitutional. The success of that application will pose fatal consequences on the national conference on Saturday. The Mpumalanga group, led by the NEC member Mathews Phosa, has been persuaded to drop their court application. The disgruntled Eastern Cape group lost their application, with costs, at the Grahamstown High court on Monday. The KwaZulu-Natal group is agitating for more deligates. Only Limpopo, North West and Northern Cape have produced no legal challenges emanating from their provincial councils.

It is safe to say that the worst in credential disputes is over, and so the process should go smoothly at the venue. The issue of votes for sale seem to be the most prominent now. On top of the minister of police accusation, the chief-whip of the ANC in parliament, Jackson Mthembu, wrote a scathing comment on social media on Wednesday:

“Desperation is forcing some people in the ANC to allocate delegates to branches that failed to hold BGMs [branch general meetings]. These attempts of allocating fraudulent delegates are failing together with attempts to replace CR [Cyril Ramaphosa] delegates with bogus ones. The CR branches are fighting viciously all these unANC tendencies and they are winning. Some people have now realised that they don’t have delegate numbers‚ thus these fraudulent despicable attempts.”

There has also been a lot of hullabaloo about how many branches from provincial councils announced for either CR17 or NDZ17. It behoves any sensible person to take that with a pinch of salt. Indeed lobbyists are busy trying to convince the delegates around the venue. They’ll target more what is perceived as neutral branches, because they know it is almost impossible to convince a faction based branch to change slates. They'll pocket the bribe monies and continue to vote for the slate of they came with. This is because the process of factionalism begins at branch level. Being under the umbrella of a certain faction is a long process that has to do, most of the time, even with the existence of the very said branch. People from a faction will identify individuals living in a certain ward, prop them with resources, which include even paying for the membership of those they recruit and sign up. From there the branch will be launched with braais and all - depending on the endowment of the faction. The zone/ district/ regional leadership hence forth guard its launched branches like hawks, after making sure they had put their trusted lieutenants on its executive.

Factionalising delegates

They keep them happy with occasional gifts of entertainment and material to recruit more members throughout the year. They also promise them with vested interests, like arranging for government work or business opportunities from government tenders once their faction takes over. No delegate is going to easily throw that out for pocket money bribe at the conference because it is also to their interest that their faction wins. This is why it is almost impossible to buy factionalised delegates.

All factions know there are neutral branches whose existence is community-based. These are ideal branches for a healthy organisation because they’re driven by community based issues. Most of the time such branches do not belong to any faction, preferring to choose their candidates based on policy issues. These are the people the lobbyists target with inflated promises, and or bribes, at the conference venues. And they mostly become kingmakers, being invited to this or that late night caucus meeting – remember (as the saying goes): Akulalwa enkonfeni! [No one sleeps at the conference!]

Most crucial decisions are made in these clandestine late night caucus meetings, where factions from different provinces finalise their slates, and, if successful, present conquests from neutral branches. Voting, most of the time, is nothing more than rubber stamping the decisions of these late night clandestine meetings. SA.


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