By Shannielle Thompson
The eighth sitting of the African National Congress (ANC) Eastern Cape provincial elections was marred by violence in the early hours of Sunday, October 1, 2017, reports Times Live. Tension escalated among members of the party’s three main factions as violence erupted.
The African National Congress, South Africa’s governing Democratic Party, has been in power since the end of the Apartheid. All Africa reports that “blood-stained floor tiles, broken chairs, stun grenades and bloody delegates characterized the ANC Eastern Cape Elective Conference.”
The first day of the conference suffered setbacks as a newly implemented credentialing process caused delays. Many people who were previously registered as delegates were found to be illegitimately registered and stripped of their access to the venue. This is believed to have been the start of what angered voters.
On Friday, September 29, the party’s former chairperson, Phumulo Masualle, gave his final report as the party’s leader before calling an abrupt adjournment of the meetings, reports Mail & Guardian. This adjournment was caused by protests that formed outside of the ANC’s sitting.
Supporters of both Masualle and his then-opponent Oscar Mabuyane gathered at the gates to protest their discontent with the credentialing committee. Lindiwe Zulu, a member of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC), criticized that this incident is a result of “lax security” at the entrance of the conference, reports Mail & Guardian.
Further delays caused the conference to start later in the evening than initially intended, reports Times Live. “Delegates linked to Masualle disrupted the conference proceedings,” reports All Africa, and delegates “started to sing up until there was division of the house. Then we saw chairs flying and people get injured.”
People were seen taking cover, throwing bottles, chairs, and other forms of equipment at each other in the hall. The emergency services were called and police broke up the crowd with stun grenades. “We didn’t anticipate that something like this could happen,” one injured participant told eNCA.
Despite the ensuing violence, the conference continued into the morning. Many representatives, supporters, and delegates were not pleased with the outcomes of the conference. Many participants protested that their delegates, who were sent away for medical attention, were not present to cast their votes for their candidate.
“How can we continue when our delegates are in hospital? We cannot let this conference continue. We will go to court if we have to,” commented a delegate.
Delegates who were willing and able to participate in the proceedings were not deterred by the violence nor by seeing their colleagues being swept away in ambulances, reports Times Live. Helen Sauls August, then-deputy secretary, accepted nominations where two candidates, Mabuyane and Masualle, were nominated for the position of Chairperson. Additionally, two candidates for deputy chair‚ six for provincial secretary‚ three for deputy secretary, and two for the treasurer position were also nominated, says to Times Live.
Mabuyane, the former secretary, secured his seat with 935 votes to Masualle’s 7. In his final speech, Masualle took the opportunity to voice concerns about the future of the ANC. Although acknowledging instances where mistakes were made during his tenure, Masualle claimed he led a “very stable ship.” He concluded his remarks by warning that, given recent events, the ANC is heading in the wrong direction.