Barely six weeks before the national and provincial elections on 8 May this year, Mpumalanga province still has two ANC’s.
The “two ANCs” thesis refers to the current state of affairs in Mpumalanga, where two structures call themselves ANC.
The “first ANC” controls the organisation’s provincial headquarters, January Masilela House, and all the resources including the organisation’s election machinery.
It maintains its position of power through controlling state or party office and political networks and patronage derived from its loyalty to ANC deputy president, David Mabuza.
The second ANC is not a homogenous entity, but some operate almost like an underground organisation. Their “operation centres” are dilapidated buildings, sometimes the boot of cars and meeting points are parking lots.
While it appears disorganised, it is highly disciplined, and constituted of some of the most advanced activists and finest brains in the organisation.
They owe their allegiance to ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and some had hoped that his election would finally bring them out of marginalisation, but he instead chose to recognise those occupying Che Masilela House.
The Two ANCs principle can be traced back to the Lowveld Showground conference in 2008, when Mabuza defeated Lassy Chiwayo in a bruising political contest for the position of provincial chairperson.
During his acceptance speech Mabuza declared, “All lobby groups must be disbanded”.
Barely minutes after conference delegates praised him for a “matured” statement, he addressed a crowd that was gathered outside the Showgrounds, “Now go all out and take all the regions,” he told his foot soldiers, who complied.
On the other hand, his “opponents” disbanded their lobby group but before they knew it, Mabuza was in charge of the entire province, sidelining genuine members and, among others, recruited apartheid operatives to lead the organisation in Ehalnzeni.
The organisation’s national executive committee has, over the past ten years failed to resolve the political impasse, and during that period the “second” ANC grew in stature as Mabuza sidelined even more members.
When Ramaphosa visited the province for the first time as the president earlier this month, the First ANC failed to mobilise people to fill the Kanyamazane stadium as more and more people become disgruntled with the organisation.
This forced the First ANC to convene an urgent meeting with the Second ANC and urged them to participate in the election campaign.
Present at the meeting were Charles Makola, David Dube and Peter Nyoni, and conspicuous by his absence was Fish Mahlalela.
The latter’s name, however, appears in the ANC’s list of members of the national assembly, and occupies a safe position of 80.
Ironically, the meeting took place just after the ANC had submitted its list to the IEC, thus preventing those sidelined from being part of the legislatures.
Nyoni’s spokesperson, Jealous Nyalunga, said that they agreed to mobilise their supporters.
“We agreed to heed the call. We developed our own programme and we have mobilised all our forces on the ground and we are running the programme as ANC volunteers.
“Remember that during elections, every member of the organisation is a volunteer, whether you are in a structure of the organisation or not,” said Nyalunga.
Thus, while the “First ANC’s” Refilwe Mtsweni, who is not a PEC member, used his premiership “clout” to campaign, the “second ANC’s” Peter Nyoni also canvassed for the organisation at Nsikazi.
While the two ANCs have chosen to talk to each other through the courts of law, they however, campaign for the same ANC.
Some by enticing voters through free Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes and distribution of cash to campaigners and others empty handed.
In the ballot paper there will be one ANC and the face will be that on president Cyril Ramaphosa.
The Second ANC is still optimistic that by the end of the week, Mabuza’s stranglehold on the province could crumble when the high court sits on Thursday.
“We are going to dethrone crooks on Thursday,” said a confident Nyalunga.