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ANC deadlocks on premier
Electing a premier for Gauteng is dividing ANC members, writes Wally Mbhele

A mood of defiance is rising among rank- and-file activists against the leadership of the African National Congress in Gauteng following the continued failure of the party to break the political deadlock surrounding the race to replace Premier Tokyo Sexwale.

A showdown is looming this weekend between the provincial leadership and the grassroots membership: six out of seven of the regions, representing the majority of the more than 100 branches, support advocate Mathole Motshekga. The ANC Women's League and Youth League also back him.

But the provincial leadership appears determined to prevent Motshekga from taking office.

Activists have warned that unless he is elected premier at the general council meeting on Sunday, "unity will be jeopardised".

Last month, Sexwale brought ANC President Nelson Mandela in to resolve the dispute. Sexwale wanted Mandela to urge Motshekga to stand down in the interests of unity. But senior ANC figures advised the president not to take sides and Mandela, while attending the meeting, refused to intervene.

At the meeting he expressed confidence in the selection process, saying: "It looks democratic so far."

The deadlock has prompted Amos Masondo, the MEC for Health who is the candidate favoured by the provincial leadership, to attempt to pull out and distance himself from the infighting.
The latest episode in the political drama - which began six weeks ago when the hunt for Tokyo Sexwale's successor started - came this week when the provincial working committee of the ANC refused to adopt the minutes of its previous meeting.

The minutes contained an announcement by Masondo that he was pulling out in favour of Motshekga.

Party insiders who attended the provincial working committee meeting when Masondo made his dramatic statement told the Mail & Guardian that "he was weary of the constant media focus on him.

"He is not accustomed to such heavy media attention and he feels that his otherwise quiet life and privacy has unnecessarily been trampled upon," said a source.

Senior ANC members said Masondo was uncomfortable about the fact that most ANC branches as well as the Gauteng youth and women's leagues supported Motshekga.
Sunday's general council meeting is likely to see sharp exchanges between provincial leaders and their counterparts in ANC branches who are expected to insist on their right to decide on a new leader through a democratic vote.

These two layers of leadership are poles apart in their aspirations for the next premier of Gauteng.
The debate will centre around the question of whether the task team that co-ordinated nominations acted procedurally by preferring only one candidate above the other.

The provincial executive committees of the ANC, Cosatu and the South African Communist Party had all attempted to encourage Motshekga to step down, but without success, sources say.
The alliance's action angered even some influential national ANC figures, who questioned the credibility of the process and the criteria used in selecting only one candidate.

Faced with Motshekga's refusal to step down, the task team is said to have arranged the meeting with Mandela, hoping to get him to ask the advocate to step down. Both candidates and senior Gauteng ANC members were present at this meeting.

Motshekga was apparently given a wrong time for the meeting. It is said this was deliberately done to cause him to arrive late.

But Mandela, who was already aware of the problems, refused to start the meeting before he arrived.

The M&G has been told that at the next provincial working committee meeting, Masondo said he wanted to form a committee to advise him on "how to manage the process of my withdrawal from the premiership race".

He also said he did not want to divide the ANC. However, he was advised by his colleagues to "hang on" and give Sexwale another opportunity to mediate.

Sexwale suggested that the two candidates meet and discuss the matter between themselves "as comrades". That discussion never took place.
Sources within the ANC say Masondo would have withdrawn from the race long ago, but has been consistently prevented from doing so by "insecure senior provincial leaders".

On the other hand, Motshekga is understood to have stood his ground. He has in many meetings argued that only the branches who nominated him can instruct him to step down from the race.

Some ANC members in the Gauteng legislature are understood to be extremely concerned about their future and positions if Motshekga did become premier. Some have even gone to branches to lobby support for Masondo.

There are fears that if Motshekga emerges as the new premier on Sunday, it will be difficult for him to govern because of the cabal within the present provincial executive committee, which opposes him taking over.

In this scenario, sources close to him have indicated that for the smooth running of his government, he will have to consider reshuffling the Cabinet. This, however, could prove dangerous as it could cause a rebellion similar to the Free State saga.

Another option is for him to delay a reshuffle and instead request Gauteng regions to call for an early conference next year so that he can seek a clear mandate from the branches.

As Sunday approaches, Motshekga's support seems to be gaining momentum and he is winning more support at branch level.

Masondo's support base seems to be confined to the fragmented Johannesburg region.

If no decision is reached on Sunday, the ANC's national leadership is expected to step in and suggest that new nominees be considered for the "sake of unity".