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Rocky start for ANC conference as group tries to disrupt Ramaphosa's speech

KZN leaders intervene to calm the rowdy crowd

Members of the ANC heckle party president Cyril Ramaphosa as he delivers the political report on December 16 at Nasrec in Johannesburg during the 55th ANC national conference.
Members of the ANC heckle party president Cyril Ramaphosa as he delivers the political report on December 16 at Nasrec in Johannesburg during the 55th ANC national conference.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

A handful of ANC delegates, mostly from KwaZulu-Natal, disrupted President Cyril Ramaphosa's political report at the opening of the party's national conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg on Friday.

The group chanted “change” and “Phala Phala”, and sang pro-Jacob Zuma songs when Ramaphosa started delivering his speech.

An attempt by Gauteng delegates to drown out KZN in support of the president was futile and interventions by outgoing national chairperson Gwede Mantashe did not help.

It got worse when former president Zuma walked in late while Ramaphosa was at the podium.

Delegates broke into pro-Zuma songs, also calling for Ramaphosa to go over load-shedding and the Phala Phala scandal.

Mantashe called for calm but ended up telling delegates to “vote in who they want” as they made hand signals for “change”.

Delegates from Zuma's region of Musa Dladla were particularly loud and disruptive.

Delegates from the Harry Gwala region, co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's home, and Josiah Gumede region participated in the disruption.

“I want to appeal to all of us to respect this meeting that has taken place 55 times in the life of our organisation. I want to appeal to everyone who wants space to raise their dissatisfaction to do so in an orderly manner,” Ramaphosa responded.

He added that the opening speech was not the time “to display this kind of disorderly behaviour, this does not look well for the ANC”.

It took KZN chairperson Siboniso Duma, deputy chairperson Nomagugu Simelane and former eThekwini regional secretary Bheki Ntuli to calm them down.

The president was later able to deliver his speech with minor challenges.

KZN has endorsed Zweli Mkhize for president and if their behaviour is anything to go by, the delegates might present a challenge to Ramaphosa and his allies in the outgoing national executive committee.

The conference was delayed for several hours due to problems with registering some delegates.

TimesLIVE


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