By ZINE GEORGE, ZINGISA MVUMVU and SIMTHANDILE FORD
The election of Oscar Mabuyane as the ANC provincial chairman has boosted the chances of ANC’s presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa.
Mabuyane, a known Ramaphosa supporter, was elected to replace his former ally Phumulo Masualle in a highly contested ANC Eastern Cape conference, which was characterised by chaos and violence in the small hours yesterday.
Several delegates were injured when a fight broke out between supporters of Mabuyane and Masualle – with the latter grouping being driven out of the conference venue as chairs and other missiles flew through the air at the East London International Convention Centre.
Ramaphosa arrived at the conference to rapturous applause, as the delegates exalted his name and called on him to take over from President Jacob Zuma at the ANC’s national conference in December.
In a conciliatory tone, Ramaphosa pleaded with ANC members in the province to extend an olive branch to former ANC provincial chairman Phumulo Masualle.
This was after Masualle and his supporters – including former treasurer Thandiswa Marawu, deputy chairman Sakhumzi Somyo, as well as PEC member Mlibo Qoboshiyane – walked out of the weekend’s elective conference after violence erupted over credentials.
Ramaphosa said: “I am also making a call to those comrades who are not here. Comrade Phumulo and the others who are not here. I am saying remember one thing: we are all members of the same family of the ANC. We must come back and work together. If we can help it, let us resolve all our problems together rather than marching all over,” he said.
The ANC leadership said Ramaphosa would be on hand to address the “problems and the challenges” in the province.
“When we come and propose solutions here, all of us must be open to be persuaded … open to listen and reason and open to one important thing, [that is] to keep the ANC united. That is one thing we must never turn away from,” said the deputy president.
Mabuyane’s election is viewed as a shot in the arm to Ramaphosa’s campaign, as the former has openly declared his support for Ramaphosa to take over as president after the ANC’s December elective conference.
Support for Ramaphosa was also evident as delegates broke out in song: “We are ready for Ramaphosa.”
However, the former union leader warned the delegates against singing divisive songs. The chaos that took place in the early hours yesterday resulted in a case of public violence being opened at the police station in Fleet Street by provincial safety and liaison MEC Weziwe Tikana.
This came after at least eight ANC delegates were hospitalised.
When the violence broke out, Masualle, social development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi and Tikana were whisked away by security and took cover in a police Nyala. When things cooled down, Sihlwayi and Masualle left with their security, while Tikana went back to the conference venue.
Provincial police spokeswoman Sibongile Soci confirmed that a case of public violence had been opened and was under investigation. “No arrests have been made yet,” she added.
A decision was taken by the conference’s steering committee and national executive committee members to go ahead with the conference. Masualle’s supporters left and never returned.
With more than 950 of the 1700 delegates remaining, the conference met the 50-plus-1 threshold required to proceed.
Mabuyane received 935 votes against Masualle’s seven.
The Masualle grouping convened a parallel press conference at the East London City Hall yesterday, while national executive committee deployees convened delegates, as well as the media, at a separate meeting at the East London ICC to announce the election of Mabuyane as the new ANC provincial chairman.
But outgoing ANC provincial spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane – who walked out of the conference with Masualle and his supporters yesterday – was adamant that Masualle remained the provincial chairman. He said that “there was no dissolution of the PEC” as other delegates left the conference venue due to the chaos.
This was despite ANC national executive committee (NEC) deployee to the province, Lindiwe Zulu declaring Mabuyane’s election as legitimate, “as the party’s constitution had been abided with throughout”.
Addressing a rally of Masualle supporters at a parallel gathering at the City Hall, Qoboshiyane said: “As far as I am concerned the conference was adjourned due to the chaos which panned out.”
It also emerged that a high court application to interdict the conference was brought by well-known Mthatha lawyer Mvusi Notyesi, who has previously represented the anti-Mabuyane grouping. Judgment has been reserved until 9am today.
Mabuyane confirmed that they were challenging the application.
“We think it’s just an academic exercise because you can’t interdict a conference that has already concluded its business,” he said.
lSee also pages 4 and 9