ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte
African National Congress (ANC) deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte, who also heads up the party's national dispute resolution committee, said in hindsight, it was good that the ANC's KwaZulu-Natal conference did not go ahead last month.
Duarte said that the halting of the much-anticipated conference allowed the province to rebuild and to regain confidence lost through the manipulation of processes leading up to the event.
The KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg slapped the ANC with a court interdict just hours before the conference was supposed to take place.
Members from the Harry Gwala, Moses Mabhida and Lower South Coast regions, who complained about flawed processes leading up to the provincial elective conference, applied for the interdict.
"There were several mistakes that we made. For instance, a number of people were left out of processes. Either membership wasn't put in, or membership was in but [members were] disqualified or they weren't informed about the BGMs (branch general meetings). So, what we did, was worked through all the regions… eThekwini had about 40 such branches, Harry Gwala had 11, Moses Mabhida had several and Lower South Coast several," said Duarte.
She said the national dispute committee revisited the troubled regions, worked towards restoring membership where needed, and called for some BGM's to be rerun.
"We are now at the final stages. Then they can go to provincial conference, a proper one," Duarte added.
She said the ANC could not ignore the deliberate exclusion of some members and the factionalism that plagued preparations of the previous conference.
Delegates at the conference, which was converted into a consultative conference, refused to be addressed by the ANC's national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, singing and jeering every time he attempted to address a packed hall at the University of Zululand in Empangeni.
A factional gathering
The consultative conference was called off after the incident and Mantashe described it as a factional gathering, saying only one side would be listened to when matters were discussed.
"I think so. That's why we made a finding to rerun some branches," Duarte responded when she was asked if she thought the manipulation claims were legitimate.
"We mustn't undermine that. We must all own up but going forward, I think we are in a good space," she added.
Duarte said the dispute resolution committee learnt a lot from their experiences and that a report on the matter would be compiled and handed over to the national executive committee.
"It was actually probably the right decision not to have conference go ahead last month so that it gave us this time to rebuild some of the confidence that had been broken through manipulation and so on," she remarked.
"As we go forward, the one firm thing we must say to everyone [is] if you treat everyone fairly, you won't have problems," she continued.
According to some provincial task team members, negotiations between the provincial leadership and disgruntled members had been going well and an agreement was expected to be signed before the end of the week.
An insider told News24 that there was an agreement for all regional task teams to be equal and balanced and that the Moses Mabhida regional conference should only take place after a provincial congress. The insider also told News24 that a leader from the Lower South Coast region was hampering negotiations because he wanted to be included in the provincial executive committee.
Duarte confirmed that the two parties had been in discussion and said she didn't know if they could reach an out-of-court settlement.
"It's up to the court to make a ruling. However, the people who took the ANC to court have been in discussions with [the] provincial leadership, the PTT (provincial task teams) and I think they have come to amicable arrangements as to what the real issues are. But it can't undermine democratic processes," she said.
Without giving any details of the discussions, Duarte said people always made a comparison with the 2017 national elective congress outcomes, which took place in Nasrec in December.
"I think that's always difficult, but people make this comparison with Nasrec, but at Nasrec the branches chose a united leadership. There was no fiddling with it. There was no kind of strange negotiations that went on there," said the deputy secretary general.