ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has called for unity of purpose within the ruling party’s Free State leadership to ensure its continued dominance in a province regarded as one of its safest strongholds.
Sources who attended a closed-door meeting between Mantashe and Free State party boss Ace Magashule and other senior provincial leaders held in Bloemfontein this week said the secretary-general urged those in attendance to shun divisions that he said were chiefly caused by lack of political maturity.
Mantashe is said to have called for increased political education to ensure all party cadres and office bearers were well grounded in the traditions and culture of the former liberation movement that came into power at the end of apartheid rule in 1994.
“He said political maturity could only be obtained through intensive political education,” said a source who attended the meeting held over two days at the Woodlands Estate on the northern margins of Bloemfontein.
Apart from Magashule, some of the ANC leaders who attended the meeting included deputy provincial chair Thabo Manyoni, secretary William Bulwane, spokesperson Thabo Meeko and all the other members of the provincial executive committee.
Also at the meeting were Cosatu provincial secretary Sam Mashinini and various leaders from the labour federation and the SACP that form part of a tripartite ruling alliance led by the ANC.
Meeko confirmed the provincial leaders’ meeting with Mantashe but declined to take questions on the matter saying the meeting was an internal party event not for sharing with the media.
“The meeting was private and no one had the right to communicate discussion of the meeting to the media,” said Meeko.
The ANC has said it plans to dispatch 30 000 volunteers across the Free State to knock on doors to persuade voters to back the party in next year’s elections, as the ruling party seeks to beat off efforts by opposition parties to increase their share of the ballot in the province.
Both the Cope and Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition parties have said the Free State is one of the provinces they are targeting to increase their support.
Former ANC youth leader Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters party has also said it is hoping to eat into the ANC’s support base in the province.
The Cope has said it is hoping to increase its share of the vote in the Free State to 40 percent up from the 11.60 percent it won in 2009.
Likewise the DA in the Free State says it is targeting to take 30.9 percent of the vote, nearly three times the 11.61 percent it garnered four years ago.
But the ANC has vowed to maintain its overwhelming dominance in the province, saying it was looking to increase its vote share next year to 85 percent up from the 71.1 percent it recorded in the 2009 ballot.
Meanwhile, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has said everything is in place for the voter registration weekend that begins tomorrow and ends on Sunday, when thousands of voters are expected to flood various voting stations across the province to register or to inspect the voters’ roll to ensure their names are captured.
IEC provincial electoral officer Chris Mepa said 80.1 percent of eligible voters in the Free State had registered to take part in the polls expected before July next year.
The voter registration exercise this weekend was an attempt to capture the remaining 19.1 percent of voters, he said.
Mepa said the IEC has recruited and trained enough personnel to man the 1 523 voter registration stations across the province to ensure people do not have to wait in queues for unnecessarily too long juts to have their names registered.
“About 3 460 people were recruited and trained ahead of the registering the process . . . this is to prevent people having to stand in queues for long periods,” he said.