The ANC’s top 20 violent fights

by The Editor

FEATURE: Everyone knows the ANC is factionalised and infighting is rife but how bad is it? We hear scattered reports of violence and mayhem at ANC meetings but do we have the full picture? In an attempt to demonstrate just how serious the divisions are and to what extent the party is, literally, at war with itself, I present the ANC’s top 20 violent fights: a range of examples of how the party has turned in on itself over the past few years and the bloody consequences.

The ANC’s top 20 violent fights

By: Gareth van Onselen

4 July 2012

The ANC is fundamentally fractured along a number of different fault lines. Often the political tectonic plates shift and the party’s members moved from mere disagreement to actual physical violence. At its worst people have died, murdered or assassinated (subject, perhaps, for another archive). On a more regular basis, though, ANC members have resorted to assaulting each other as the various post-Polokwane aftershocks continue to reverberate through the party’s structures.

What follows, in no particular order, is a list of the top 20 ANC violent fights since its last elective conference, as carried in the media.

No doubt they represent only a small fraction of the actual number of physical fights to have broken out inside the ANC over that period – indeed, many news stories refer to other fights not covered in the press; and I have excluded a few simply for length. Nevertheless, jointly and separately they speak to an organisation at war with itself, every representative not a member of the ANC but of a particular faction within it. And when their interests clash, so do they; the battle of ideas replaced by baying and bloodshed.

So diluted is the ANC’s internal coherence one is often tempted to resort to laughter, as any serious attempt to digest the consequences of its meltdown can only ever be profoundly depressing. Thus, while the structure of this piece is somewhat superficial, the subject is not. There are serious warning lights that signal when any democracy is in distress, none should grab one’s attention more than when the governing party turns in on itself, assaulting and murdering its own.

It is important to bring these things together in consolidated form because they demonstrate how wide spread the problem is. Each on its own, reported locally and seemingly isolated, cannot constitute all the facts and that, in turn, is to the detriment of any fuller understanding. Indeed, to try and create a full list is, I believe, an important political project someone should undertake.

That said, here are the ANC’s top 20 violent fights.

Date: July 2008.
Province: North West.
Faction: the ANC North West versus Supra Mahumpelo.
The Facts: Mahumpelo served 18 party members with letters of suspension, among them ANCYL member Kenny Morolong, who then proceeded to allegedly beat ANC sub-regional secretary Aaron Motswana and party member Sipho Phaziwe with a spanner. ANCYL members then torched the ANC regional offices, later to appear in court on charges of attempted murder, attempts to commit grievous bodily harm and malicious damage to property.
Injuries: Serious injuries to Phaziwe and Motswana.
Quotable Quote: “They are trying to intimidate people” (The MKMVA in the province, in suggesting the charges were trumped up by Mahumpelo to get rid of his opponents.)
Source: Mail & Guardian, 17 July 2008.

Date: July 2008.
Province: Northern Cape.
Faction: Neville Mompati versus John Block.
The Facts: An ANC general meeting of its Batho Pele branch devolved into violence when supporters of each faction came to blows about the attendance register. A group of Block supporters allegedly forced their way in, assaulting and manhandling members.
Injuries: Several members were bruised and beaten.
Quotable Quote: “A fight ensued over the register and they assaulted branch member Harchris Magama. He was injured on his leg and they knocked him on his face between the eyes.”
Source: Diamond Fields Advertiser, 30 July 2008.

Date: July 2009.
Province: North West.
Faction: ANC North West provincial executive committee versus ANC national executive committee.
The Facts: In attempting to explain the NEC’s decision to disband the North West ANC provincial executive committee NEC members Nathi Mthethwa, Thaba Mufumadi and Lumka Yengeni had to abandon the meeting when chairs were hurled at them. Police were called in and rubber bullets were fired. Ironically, the provincial executive was being disbanded because a faction had taken control of it.
Injuries: Not reported.
Quotable Quote: “It was eventually called off because chairs were being hurled round the hall at the time when the national committee members were supposed to convey the ANC’s decision…”
Source: The Times, 20 July 2009.

Date: August 2009.
Province: Eastern Cape.
Faction: Bambezakhe Goya versus William Ngozi 1.
The Facts: This rivalry features more than once on this list. Both members and the factions they represent have warred over the mayoralty of the Ingquza Hill municipality. On this occasion, at a council meeting, Goya, elected to replace Ngozi as mayor, dared to sit in the mayoral chair. Who threw the first punch is disputed but blows were exchanged, chairs thrown, knives were drawn (remember this was a council meeting) and people stabbed. Several councilors were crushed by a stampede to exit. A gun was allegedly drawn. Goya later claimed Ngozi hit him over the head with a chair. He sustained a stab wound in this thigh requiring eight stitches. It was alleged the Speaker, Ms Busisiwe Nkani, threw the first punch. She sustained a black eye.
Injuries: Several people sustained head injuries, broken bones and stab wounds.
Quotable Quote: “I saw someone carrying a gun, ran towards the door, someone hit me and I slipped and fell and people walked all over me. It was so bad I thought I was going to die.” (Councillor Pumla Dotshwa, describing how she broke a rib.)
Source: The Daily Dispatch, 4 August 2009.

Date: April 2010.
Province: Eastern Cape.
Faction: Bambezakhe Goya versus William Ngozi 2.
The Facts: The war between these two got so bad council meetings had to be presided over by police officers. The fist such meeting, also presided over by ‘peace-maker’ co-operative governance MEC Sicelo Gqobana, had to be abandoned after rival councilors traded insults and outside their supporters “bayed for each other’s blood”. It was one of several meeting abandoned, others due to violence.
Injuries: None at this particular meeting.
Quotable Quote: “The fact of the matter is that there is no municipality here – you cannot say there is a municipality in that kind of situation.” (Sicelo Gqobana)
Additional Information: In November 2010 Deputy Minister and ANC NEC member Derek Hanekom had to flee a ‘crisis’ ANC meeting to discuss the Goya/Ngozi feud after a gun was drawn and shots exchanged. Eight ANC supporters were injured; four seriously.
Source: The Daily Dispatch, 14 April 2010.

Date: June 2010.
Province: Eastern Cape.
Faction: Butterworth regional versus local leadership.
The Facts: Both leaderships met at a local ANC meeting but each faction refused to recognise the other’s authority. The meeting turned bloody when there was disagreement over the chairman presiding. Chairs were thrown and used to assault members and a regional executive committee member and regional secretary were forced to flee.
Injuries: Not reported.
Quotable Quote: “They took chairs and you could hear people being hit on their heads and backs. The chairs were flying all over. It was bad.”
Source: The Daily Dispatch, 2 June 2010.

Date: July 2010.
Province: Eastern Cape.
Faction: ANC Alfred Nzo versus the ANC provincial executive committee.
The Facts: A PEC delegation, sent to the region to explain the decision to disband three regions was met with violence. They were pelted with stones and sprayed with water. Police were called onto the scene and they also came under attack. Property was damaged in the ensuing fight.
Injuries: Not reported.
Quotable Quote: “It was violent; our cars were also damaged in the process. The meeting turned really nasty…”
Source: The Daily Dispatch, 20 July 2010.

Date: September 2010.
Province: Western Cape.
Faction: ANC Ward 95 branch versus itself.
The Facts: A meeting to elect a new branch leadership became violent when one group of ANC youth, allegedly at the behest of an ANC youth leader, tried to force their way into the meeting after it was announced a quorum had not been reached (supposedly a quorum would prevent their candidate being elected). Knives, rocks, chairs and a hammer were used as weapons. The fighting lasted an hour. Several people were stabbed and many injured.
Injuries: As many as 15 with seven admitted to hospital, one in serious condition.
Quotable Quote: “They went into the hall and when told to register or leave, they pulled out knives and stabbed people.”
Source: Cape Argus: 13 September 2010.

Date: January 2011.
Province: Northern Cape.
Faction: ANC Peter May ward versus ANC provincial executive committee.
The Facts: A branch general meeting disintegrated after ward members rejected the nominated candidate arguing the person had been forced upon them. Some members walked out and, before the election could take place, chairs were thrown. Some members pulled out knives and threatened others. Angry members then went outside, blockaded a road and set tyres on fire. Later, a riot broke out and police were called in.
Injuries: Several people were hit with chairs and suffered injuries, bruising and cuts.
Quotable Quote: “Burn, burn, burn,” and “The revolution was fought with fire.”
Source: Diamond Fields Advertiser, 18 January 2011.

Date: March 2011.
Province: KwaZulu-Natal.
Faction: ANC KwaQanda vesus the ANC regional executive committee.
The Facts: At an ANC meeting to explain the ANC’s nominated candidate for Ward 6, Agnes Mkhize, ANC provincial executive committee member (and MEC) Lydia Johnson had to flee when the candidate was rejected and accused of being imposed on the community, ahead of their choice, and a relative of KZN premier Zweli Mkhize. Chairs were thrown and tyres burnt. Johnson was escorted to her car which was banged and kicked as it pulled away. Journalists were manhandled.
Injuries: Not reported.
Quotable Quote: “We tried to calm down the situation, but the people were too angry.”
Source: The Witness, 21 March 2011.

Date: October 2011.
Province: KwaZulu-Natal.
Faction: ANCYL versus the ANC.
The Facts: An ANCYL meeting to discuss the disbanding of the KZN leadership (including the ANCYL leadership) was stormed by disgruntled ANCYL members. Some 200 people forced themselves into the building, up to the 21st floor stairwell where they started to toyi-toyi. Security guards sprayed teargas (there were no windows in the passageway) and a stampede to evacuate was just avoided as people fell and ran.
Injuries: Not reported.
Quotable Quote: “Chaos erupted as people tried to run away. This reporter was caught up amid falling people. Some were vomiting; others rushed to taps to wash their faces.”
Source: The Witness, 4 October 2011.

Date: April 2011.
Province: Western Cape.
Faction: Tumi Liwani versus Phaki Mbali.
The Facts: ANC members interrupted a Liwani meeting (called by him to dispel rumours he had aligned himself with the DA) and violence broke out, with Liwani being attacked. Earlier, while canvassing in the area, ANC members had stoned and vandalized Mbali’s car. Liwani claimed one of the attackers at the meeting was Mbali’s brother, against whom he later laid assault charges against. Liwani was attacked with sticks and stones. Police opened 13 dockets for investigation including assault and malicious damage to property.
Injuries: Various people were injured, including Liwani who suffered bruises and cuts.
Quotable Quote: “They mistook him for one of us and his own people attacked him.” (The rather odd explanation proffered by then-Bitou mayor Lulama Mvimbi.)
Source: EP Herald, 8 April 2011.

Date: April 2011.
Province: Eastern Cape.
Faction: The ANC versus Jacob Zuma versus Nceba Faku.
The Facts: After Jacob Zuma failed to appear for an visit to Govan Mbeki township, ANC supporters, angry with ANC regional chairperson Nceba Faku, blocked the road and started pelting motorists with stones, and had to be dispersed by police who fired rubber bullets and used stun grenades.
Injuries: 14 people suffered injuries; some had to be taken to hospital.
Quotable Quote: “We don’t want the regional executive committee to exist. Nceba Faku must go. Faku is the big fish, the thug. He wants to do everything here. He wants to run everything.”
Source: Weekend Post, 9 April 2011.

Date: April 2011.
Province: Eastern Cape.
Faction: Ntsikelelo Mahlasela versus Thenjiwe Mankahlana.
The Facts: An election list meeting turned ugly when two factions, each disputing the number one candidate for Mdantsane Ward 30, resorted to physical violence. Supposedly the winning candidate had already been decided, but then Mankahlana was announced as the winning candidate. Supporters then exchanged blows. A member of legislature had to be taken away by bodyguards. Other members were left bloodied on the floor. A Buffalo City council mayoral committee member was beaten and bruised.
Injuries: Several people suffered bruising, cuts and other injuries.
Quotable Quote: “…these tensions will never go away. Our community is now divided into two.”
Additional Information: In related factionalism a week earlier, in Mooiplaas, 19 ANC members were arrested after they burnt ANC election posters.
Source: The Daily Dispatch, 19 April 2011.

Date: October 2011.
Province: Northern Cape.
Faction: The Kgatolpele Community Forum versus the ANC.
The Facts: Established by disgruntled ANC members, unhappy at the appointment of a mayor they disliked, the KFC disrupted a Danielskuil branch meeting, throwing stones bottles and chairs at provincial secretary Zamani Saul, who would later deny anything untoward happened while he was there. Police were called in and a police vehicle was damaged. It was alleged many of the members at the meeting were drunk.
Injuries: Not reported.
Quotable Quote: “People started to pick up chairs asking if he [Saul] was the one who said the people from Danielskruil are farmers who don’t understand how government works.”
Source: The Diamond Fields Advertiser, 5 October 2011.

Date: December 2011.
Province: Eastern Cape.
Faction: ANC Ward 11 versus itself.
The Facts: During a general branch meeting of Ward 11, one of several ANC branches in the Eastern Cape with ‘parallel structures’, the two factions came to blows over which delegates should attend the party’s provincial council, ahead of the Mangaung elective conference. Fists flew, gunshots were fired, people were stoned, stabbed and hit with sticks. The physical confrontation manifested when members, not wanting to produce membership forms until inside the hall, grabbed a bunch of forms and assaulted the female electoral officer with their fists.
Injuries: A number of people were hospitalized. (The Daily Dispatch wrote it took some pictures of the injured but they were “too gory for publication”.)
Quotable Quote: “Within minutes it was chaos. There was blood everywhere, people were assaulted with sticks and stabbed. Several shots were fired. It was a scary situation.”
Source: The Daily Dispatch, 13 December 2011.

Date: April 2012.
Province: Free State.
Faction: Sam Matiase versus Ace Magashule.
The Facts: A meeting of the ANC’s Silver City branch disintegrated into violence when the two factions argued about membership and disgruntled members stormed the meeting. Shots were fired in the air, allegedly by Magashule’s bodyguards, although police were called in and might also have done so. Pepper spray was used.
Injuries: Two people hospitalized with serious injuries.
Quotable Quote: “Lovers and concubines.” (How Magashule’s supporters were allegedly described.)
Source: The Express, 18 April 2012.

Date: April 2012.
Province: Free State.
Faction: Ace Magashule versus Mxolisi Dukwana.
The Facts: An ANC meeting of its Thaba Nchu’s Kopano ke Matla branch ended up in bloody violence when a faction forced their way into the meeting demanding it be suspended as, they alleged, it had not been convened in line with party rules. At this point things became violent. Amidst the fighting one ANC member was stabbed in the chest and had to taken to hospital. The meeting was abandoned.
Injuries: Several people were badly injured.
Quotable Quote: “We went there to protect our comrades who were defenceless against the convenors of that meeting.”
Source: Free State Times, 20 April 2012.

Date: May 2012.
Province: North West.
Faction: ANC North West versus itself.
The Facts: An ANC North West regional general council broke down after a motion of no confidence in regional secretary Obuti Chika was proposed. One faction then proceeded to hurl stones and even point guns at other members. Several members had to flee the scene, including Tlokwe Council speaker, Barei Segotso. Police and paramedics were called in and the meeting continued after the disruption had ended, under police supervision. One member was charged with assault and appeared in court on various charges including an intent to inflict grievous bodily harm.
Injuries: Not reported.
Quotable Quote: “He is not in a position to confirm whether or not there was an RGC meeting. It is a matter that will have to be investigated.” (Mr Kenny Morolong, ANC provincial spokesperson, denying Obuti Chika, who was absent, even recognised the meeting as legitimate.)
Source: The Potch Herald, 10 May 2012.

Date: July 2012.
Province: Gauteng.
Faction: The ANC versus the ANC.
The Facts: It seems appropriate to end off with a physical fight at one of the ANC’s biggest national meetings, its policy conference, held in Midrand. As widely reported, several North West delegates came to blows during the plenary, with one member being expelled. What the precise cause of the argument was is contested, some say nationalization, others which delegates represented the province at the conference.
Injuries: Not reported.
Quotable Quote: “We are dealing with hooligans. They wanted to cook the proposal [on nationalisation], they located people next to microphones.”
Source: The Sunday Times, 1 July 2012.

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