JOHANNESBURG - Andile Lungisa's ambitions to lead the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay could be dead in the water.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe is sticking to his guns in the party's stand-off with the newly elected Nelson Mandela Bay chairperson.
The party awaits Lungisa’s response to its demand for him to step down.
Mantashe has warned that allowing him to stand for election to a structure lower than the ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) on which he serves would set a precedent that would deplete the party's leadership at various levels.
Mantashe said the ban on PEC members standing for election to lower structures is not spelt out explicitly in the ANC constitution.
"That constitutional provision talks of one way, it doesn't say you have a choice of resigning in the lower or higher,” said Mantashe. “It says you will resign in the lower organs. That's what the constitution says.
“Then you go to the NEC [national executive committee]. We give it a meaning that says nobody in higher organs should be allowed to stand for election in lower organs and that interpretation has been tested, it is now practice."
Mantashe said it was that interpretation that had previously scuppered NEC member Bheki Cele's ambitions to lead the Ethekwini region.
Lungisa’s election violated the party’s constitution and there was a very good reason why Lungisa couldn't be allowed to get away with it, he said.
“I'm the secretary-general of the ANC, there's a conference in December. I can read the balance of forces and see that I have no chance of being re-elected general secretary of the ANC. I go stand in a provincial structure, I get elected to the PEC,” Mantashe explained.
“By the time we arrive in that conference in December, there'll be nobody left in the NEC because people will pre-empt that situation, go to the provinces and disappear.
“An 86-member NEC will arrive in the December conference being a 40 member NEC. It can't be allowed, it just can't be allowed, it's bad practice."
President Jacob Zuma initially endorsed Lungisa’s election, but Mantashe suspects Zuma wasn’t aware of Lungisa’s presence in the PEC.
"It may happen that the president didn't even know that Lungisa is in the PEC,” said Mantashe. “Let's give him that benefit of the doubt."
Lungisa said the issue was an internal ANC matter, to be handled by constitutionally mandated structures, whose decisions he would abide by.