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Oscar: Why did you leave us, Mlibo?

Oscar Mabuyane

Newly elected ANC provincial chairman Oscar Mabuyane has spoken about the personal pain of being betrayed by his own long-time ally and comrade-turned-foe, Mlibo Qoboshiyane.

The two have yet to speak since the fallout at last weekend’s highly contested elective conference, which turned into a war zone as rival factions fought over credentials.

This was after Mabuyane made the shocking discovery that Qoboshiyane was supporting his rival, premier Phumulo Masualle.

In an interview with the Dispatch this week, Mabuyane confirmed that only Andile Lungisa had since returned his calls since he was elected into office on Sunday.

Lungisa confirmed returning the call, saying even they are still awaiting the outcomes of the national executive committee decision.

“We have to keep the lines of communication between us and him [Mabuyane] open. We need each other to unify this province and that is paramount,” Lungisa said.

Asked whether Masualle, or Sakhumzi Somyo, Thandiswa Marawu or Qoboshiyane and other executive committee members had called to him to congratulate him, Mabuyane said: “Not yet, unfortunately.

“But other additional members have contacted me including Andile [Lungisa]. We spoke about the reality that the conference has come and gone, and that we must find a way to move on.”

Subsequent to the throwing of chairs and exchange of blows between Mabuyane and Masualle supporters just after midnight on Saturday, Qoboshiyane led a grouping which walked out of the ICC, the conference venue, to the City Hall where the Mthatha-born activist declared that Masualle remained at the helm.

This was despite about 970 delegates remaining at the ICC and electing Mabuyane into office.

Mabuyane said: “I still want to understand what happened because it can’t be him [Qoboshiyane] who walked out of that conference and addressed a separate gathering. He knows everything. He knows the truth. He is fully aware that no ANC constitution was flouted.”

The relationship between Qoboshiyane and Mabuyane dates back to 2008, when they were elected into the ANC Youth League’s provincial executive as chairman and deputy chairman respectively.

From there on they also became part of the ANC provincial executive which won the watershed Riverpark conference under the leadership of Masualle as chairman, and Mabuyane as secretary.

They were both re-elected into office again in 2013 in Port Elizabeth, with Qoboshiyane as an additional member of the PEC.

“I am trying to get to the bottom of this. What is it that he knows that we don’t know about the conference preparations? I’m not saying necessarily he was obliged to support me,” said Mabuyane.

“We met here in the ANC and developed friendship. We are now family friends. I don’t think this will change anything. I’ve learnt to forgive anyone. It’s in my nature.”

Mabuyane had earlier called Masualle on Sunday morning, when the national executive committee deployees informed him that the conference had been given the go-ahead to elect leaders.

He had left for home, after disgruntled Masualle supporters started throwing water bottles at him, threatening his safety.

But Masualle did not return to the ICC, and the voting continued in their absence – a contest which saw Mabuyane winning by 935 votes against Masualle’s seven.

He said calling individual former PEC members was part of “our commitment to talk to our comrades, to try and reason with them – maybe they will realise that we are not at war. We can’t be against each other. In the process we must help the ANC in the province go forward”.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, addressing the conference on Sunday afternoon, asked the new executive to offer an olive branch to their rivals, as they were now not leading a faction but were all ANC members.

He said all top five officials would have to visit the province to deal with the divisions.

Mabuyane said: “We will continue engaging them.”

In response, Qoboshiyane said: “The issue of conference is now in the hands of the NEC and we shall be guided accordingly.

“Really the scale of violence and chaos was unprecedented in a provincial conference and close to 800 delegates chased out. Since I joined the ANC I harbour no grudges, hate and nefarious ill-intent to demean, humiliate and disrespect any leader, and even at this juncture comrade Mabuyane is my leader.

“I didn’t leave the meeting willfully. The scenes and the happenings really were the causal factors. Leadership elected will always receive my unqualified respect, support and working-togetherness.

“My intention now is to work for the unity of the ANC. The great work we have achieved since 2009 until last weekend remains a monumental achievement for the sixth and seventh provincial conference leadership.

“I don’t have any difficulty with Diya [Mabuyane’s clan name]. I will endeavour to create time and space to see him and express my wishes, though he knows my views before conference. I had wished for the continuity of the top five for the best political stability but that did not mean internal democracy must be avoided.”