DurbWhile embattled President Jacob Zuma came under increased pressure to step down this week, his eldest son, Edward, was fighting to become chairperson of the Msholozi branch in KwaNxamalala village in Nkandla.
But his bid was thwarted after the branch general meeting last Sunday to elect a new branch leadership came to a halt after chaos ensued.
This was after Edward’s supporters and those backing Doctor Bhengu, an ANC member, also eyeing the position of chairperson, squared off.
No one was injured and no case was opened.
An ANC member who attended the meeting said the skirmish was triggered by an objection that was raised by Edward after one of his backers was barred from being part of the meeting because her name did not appear on the voters’ roll.
The faction opposed to Edward started chanting and drowned him out when he wanted to raise his objection.
Edward could not raise his objection with Bongi Simelane, who was deployed by Musa Dladla region (second biggest after eThekwini) to oversee the elections.
Enraged, Edward’s supporters retaliated by singing derogatory songs about Bhengu’s supporters.
That’s when things got out of control between the factions, said an ANC member.
“People rushed for cover when things got out of hand. I am still wondering how no one got hurt,” said another ANC member.
Initially, police were not present at the meeting but when tensions rose they were called to calm things down.
Edward is a member of Msholozi branch and like any ANC member in good standing he qualified to stand for positions.
The meeting, which was attended by more than 300 ANC members, was postponed to April 30.
Members of the ANC who were part of the heated meeting confirmed the incident. Former branch chairperson Bongokwakhe Mbambo was elected as ward councillor during last year’s local government elections. ANC branches elect new leadership every two years.
Edward was nominated to take over as branch chairperson. But Mbambo lobbied for his own candidate, Bhengu, to take over.
At least 90% of the delegates to the national conference are elected from branches and if Edward emerged, he was likely to be part of the conference in December.
His branch only deployed one candidate to the national conference.
Although one candidate may seem uninfluential, ANC conferences are a numbers game.
If Edward is ultimately elected that will be a boost for a candidate that will be officially endorsed by Zuma.
Zuma has previously, without revealing the name of his preferred candidate, said he favoured a woman president.
The nomination process has not been officially opened and the party has warned members not to pronounce their candidates until the race is opened.
Despite the warning, Zuma’s strong allies, the ANC Women’s League and ANC Youth League said they supported Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to take over from Zuma.
Dlamini Zuma has been suggested as his preferred presidential candidate.
Tholi Gwala, regional secretary of the branch, said the meeting was disrupted by intoxicated people.
“We have intervened and the meeting will reconvene.” Mbambo denied claims that he was lobbying for Bhengu but admitted he was part of the meeting.
He wouldn’t comment further.
Edward is known to be vocal against his father’s critics.
On Friday, he issued a statement lashing former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy minister Mcebisi Jonas, who were fired by Zuma last week.
He said: “It is with shame that Pravin and his friends have turned against the ANC and really are showing their true colours of who and what they are really made of.”
Attempts to reach Edward for comment were unsuccessful and he did not respond to the messages which were sent to him.