Pretoria – The hotel is located among embassy buildings in suburban Arcadia – and it was in this three-storey business that the plan to render the capital city ungovernable was finalised.
The Pretoria News can reveal that hours after ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte named Thoko Didiza as the Tshwane mayoral candidate at Luthuli House on Monday morning, at least 12 people met at the Court Classique Hotel to hatch the unrest.
The meeting was co-ordinated and chaired by a senior ANC official and attended by branch leaders and ward councillors and candidates for the August 3 elections.
Under the command of the official, whose identity is known to the Pretoria News, the faction that was unhappy with Didiza’s appointment came up with a four-point resolution.
The plan was to turn the city into a battlefield if “Sputla” – mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa – was not back in for another term.
Dubbed the “Court Classique Resolutions”, the group vowed to torch all government and city properties, close exits and entry points of all zones, burn the ANC regional office and disrupt all political activities.
The city politicians, whose names have been withheld, coined the phrases #OneMayorOneChairperson and #NoSputlaNoVote as their war cry.
These slogans were to vibrate through the townships of the capital as they burnt in the past 24 hours in what will go down as one of the biggest single unrest events in post-apartheid South Africa.
By the time the meeting was adjourned, scores of people arrived and started the violence, overturning a patrolling metro police car before going on a rampage in Arcadia and surrounds.
At that time, a text message was circulating publicising the “Court Classique resolutions”. Moments later, violence flared in Mamelodi and Atteridgeville, spreading to other townships as the night progressed and into the morning.
But the unrest did not start this week. It has its roots in the branch general meetings that started towards the end of last year in all of the city’s 107 wards – long before the gathering to announce Didiza’s candidacy to the masses. That meeting at the city’s events centre was disrupted on Sunday with many being injured and one man shot dead.
When branch meetings season started in November and December last year, ANC members who preferred a leadership change were beaten up and prevented from attending.
Fingers were pointed at a gang known as “Boko Haram”, believed to be based in Mamelodi and under the command of the official who co-ordinated the Court Classique meeting. The gang was allegedly behind the assaults.
Branch leaders – who cannot be named for fear of a backlash – said this was done to manipulate support and votes in favour of Ramokgopa, as branch structures would be dominated by people aligned to him.
Similar allegations were made ahead of the ANC regional conference in 2014, when it was claimed that delegate lists were doctored to include those who would vote for the re-election of the leaders.
“The signs were always there,” said another branch leader. “There was violence in all the branches that later nominated Ramokgopa. This to us was an indication that voting in those areas were rigged in favour of the regional chair. The wards are in Atteridgeville, Hammanskraal and Mamelodi and several other areas. It was a clear indication that leaders of those branches had been handpicked for a specific purpose – to ensure the mayor returned to office.”
The motive behind the call for Ramokgopa to be returned and subsequent mobilisation for the cause, they alleged, was because the interests of people doing business with the city would be safeguarded if he was mayor. Others, including the senior official, meanwhile, feared losing their plush jobs under Didiza, the party insiders claimed.
The SACP echoed similar sentiments, saying the outbreak of violence was a continuation pattern of violence in the capital city and the doing of a regime that invested in capturing the city’s public purse.
“We are also reminded that even past regional congresses and the councillor selection and nomination processes were allegedly riddled with serious acts of violence, use of money and manipulation of nomination processes and procedures,” the party said.
However, the faction that wanted Ramokgopa was to get a rude awakening during the regional list conference at St Georges Hotel in Irene.
On that weekend, ANC deputy regional leader Mapiti Matsena’s name came out tops with Ramokgopa second.
And later, when the regional executive committee submitted three names for the mayoral candidacy, Ramokgopa was not among them.
Duarte said, on announcing Didiza as mayoral candidate, that the higher structures of the ANC were not convinced of the candidates proposed and asked the national executive to intervene.
Didiza was seen as a unifier and leader to build on the legacy started by Ramokgopa five years ago, she said. The mayoral candidate had the support of the regional leadership and alliance partners.
Those who support her argued that even if Didiza were to be removed as mayoral candidate, Ramokgopa would not replace her, as he was not nominated by the region.
The statement was reiterated by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe in denouncing the violence.