A battle over where the ANC hosts its 8 January rally, that would give either President Cyril Ramaphosa or ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule an edge, became a proxy fight in the ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting on Monday.
Among the issues in the heated debate, which included corruption-accused Magashule stepping aside, NEC leaders from both factions were fighting over where the annual rally should be held.
Magashule hails from the Free State and pre-emptively announced outside his court appearance last month that the rally would take place on his home ground.
Meanwhile, Ramaphosa enjoys support in Limpopo, where he originally hails from, although he grew up in Soweto.
The contention follows Magashule’s announcement to his supporters who had gathered outside court at his first court appearance last month that the party would hold its rally commemorating its birthday in Bloemfontein.
This is despite it going against the ANC tradition of rotating the venue of the rally.
Should the rally take place in Bloemfontein, insiders said it would be a win for Magashule, who would use his home turf to mobilise his supporters. Magashule was premier of the Free State up until 2017 and ANC provincial secretary for almost two decades.
ANC Free State secretary Paseka Nompondo is said to have insisted that because Bloemfontein was the birthplace of the ANC, the party should hold the event there.
But sources said other party leaders, including ministers Pravin Gordhan and Aaron Motsoaledi, could find no reason why the ANC should not hold its rally in Limpopo.
The battle comes as the NEC focused on the corruption charges against Magashule and pro-Ramaphosa supporters were arguing there should be a deadline for when the party’s top brass comes to a resolution on Magashule’s fate.
Where the rally is held, sources said, would determine the tone that will be set going into 2021 and ahead of the party’s national general council.
“Nobody could argue why it should be in Bloemfontein. There was no reason why Magashule said that publicly, other than they want to mobilise to embarrass the president. We did not allow that. We work on a rotational method and we should have it in Limpopo,” a source said.
The discussion on this matter paved the way for a pointed attack against Magashule and his supporters in the meeting, insiders said.
“People were saying that the secretary-general of the ANC cannot claim there is a political vendetta against him and that law enforcement is being used to settle political scores,” an insider said.
The NEC meeting continues on Tuesday.