Cracks between the Eastern Cape ANC and the ANC-led provincial government have spilled into the open barely two months after the party’s chaotic, chair-throwing provincial elective conference.

The ANC yesterday lambasted social development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi, accusing her of sabotaging the “failed” national launch of the 16 Days of Activism opposing violence against women and children in Port Elizabeth at the weekend.

The event was meant to be addressed by President Jacob Zuma but he did not show up, allegedly in protest at addressing empty chairs.

ANC provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukayitobi said the party viewed the exercise as wasteful expenditure and that they would demand that Sihlwayi “pay back the money” spent in putting together an event which “collapsed”.

The ANC further claims that Sihlwayi “stubbornly” insisted on taking the event to Port Elizabeth at the Nelson Mandela University’s Missionvale campus, despite earlier plans for the event to be held in Alfred Nzo.

Ngcukayitobi charged that the main reason the event was a flop was that Sihlwayi used 16 Days, a government platform, to distribute pro-Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma T-shirts ahead of the party’s national elective conference in two weeks’ time.

“They were distributing NDZ T-shirts at the gate, which is why some people who had nothing to do with ANC factional battles abandoned the event,” said Ngcukayitobi.

“This is why the event – which could have attracted at least 500 people – ended up with less than 350 people: because of the MEC’s factional behaviour.”

The offensive by the ANC against its own MEC comes a week after an ANC provincial executive committee member, Mziwonke Ndabeni, called on the party to recall premier Phumulo Masualle to avoid the so-called “two centres of power”.

Sihlwayi is in the same ANC factional group as former provincial chair Masualle, who was running for a third term two months ago, only to lose it when the provincial conference elected Oscar Mabuyane as the new provincial chairman. Contacted for comment yesterday, Sihlwayi said she would not engage in “public mudslinging”.

Ngcukayitobi said the party was not going for Sihlwayi because of her factional allegiance, but because the party’s role was to promote accountability from its public officials.

Said Ngcukayitobi: “We want MEC Sihlwayi to explain how much was spent on the event and why it collapsed.

“Most importantly of all, we want to know how she is going to recover the money, which was basically wasteful expenditure.

“We are on record saying it is wrong for ANC MECs, mayors and premiers to engage in acts that constitute waste of public money when nothing comes of it.”

Zuma’s spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, could not say why the president did not pitch.

The DA in the province jumped into the fray, saying the fact that people had not turned up for an event where Zuma was to speak was a sign that voters had had enough of the governing party.

DA provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga said: “The people of the Eastern Cape deserve a new beginning under a DA-led government that always puts them first.” —

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