“The branches insisted that I stand and I had to respect that‚” newly elected Nelson Mandela Bay regional chairman Andile Lungisa said on Sunday morning.
He was explaining his about-turn late on Saturday night when he decided to accept nominations to contest the regional chairmanship after saying earlier in the day that he would not.
He said at the time that he was threatened with disciplinary action by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe in a phone call.
Mantashe said the ANC “has a formula to deal with these matters”.
“Lungisa too will be dealt with through the same mechanism and I won’t be discussing this with the media‚” he said.
On Wednesday‚ Mantashe sent out a letter to all provincial structures across the country and reminded them about the constitution which he said barred any members of the provincial executive committee (PEC) from serving on a lower structure.
He instructed that any attempt to resign should not be allowed as it was opportunistic.
At the three-day regional elective conference‚ currently underway at the ETC Conference Venue‚ in Port Elizabeth‚ Lungisa supporters argued fiercely that he be allowed to stand‚ saying the constitution had been misinterpreted by Mantashe.
After hours of deliberations‚ which insiders said was heated‚ Lungisa was eventually allowed to stand.
One of the presiding officers‚ provincial deputy chairman Sakhumzi Somyo‚ explained that the Lungisa discussion was exhausted during the closed session.
He said they decided that the branch members had a right to choose him.
Somyo said they will submit a report to the national bosses to explain why they decided to allow Lungisa to stand for the chairmanship.
But according to provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane‚ the decision could not be allowed to go unchallenged because it would set a precedent.
Mabuyane said: “On the letter that was sent by the secretary general‚ I want to make it clear that it was not Mantashe’s views but ANC constitution‚ of which he is at the centre of it being implemented.
“However‚ Lungisa also said he has a constitutional right as the member of ANC to contest and be elected if branches wants him.
“This matter now will be addressed by the ANC national executive committee because if it is left unchallenged it will set a precedent because there will be more members resigning to contest positions in lower structures.
“The same rule was applied to prevent Bheki Cele from contesting and being elected in eThekwini region.
“As the province we are agree with ANC national but in a situation like this we are going to leave it to the ANC NEC.”
Mabuyane congratulated the new leadership and said they would work with them to gain lost ground in the metro.
Meanwhile‚ Lungisa who beat his opponent‚ ANC MPL Tony Duba‚ with 71 votes to 57‚ said the first priority of the new leadership was to unify the party in Nelson Mandela Bay and regain the confidence of the electorate.
“When we go to the 2019 elections‚ the ANC must be stronger than ever… Our people [in Nelson Mandela Bay] are suffering; they are not getting service delivery.
“We also want to address the question of land which the people in our townships need to be given‚” Lungisa said.
Asked about his association with the premier league – a grouping of ANC provincial chairpersons such as Ace Magashule‚ Supra Mahumapelo and David Mabuza – and what is believed to be their campaign for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed President Jacob Zuma as president‚ Lungisa said he did not like labels.
“I read about this premier league in newspapers and when the time comes to discuss leadership‚ we will do it in the branches.
“But we must not label Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. When we went to Polokwane in 2007‚ mama Dlamini-Zuma was in the same slate as Thabo Mbeki and people said she was strong and charismatic.
“Now‚ she’s just being seen as an ex wife. Let’s not judge her.
“For us‚ we must not jump on the issue of leadership succession right now. We must first develop our perspective as a region‚” Lungisa said.
He is expected to deliver his address to the conference later on Sunday after the additional regional executive committee members are elected.
The other members of the REC top five are: Phumzile Tshuni is deputy chairwoman‚ Themba Xathula is secretary‚ Desiree Davids is deputy secretary and Mbulelo Gidane is the new treasurer.