AFRICAN National Congress (ANC) branches in the Free State are to begin nominating their preferred leaders as the party rectifies parallel structures caused by the factional fights in the province ahead of the Mangaung conference last year.

The Free State provincial leadership, under Premier Ace Magashule, was dissolved after a Constitutional Court ruling in December declared his election null and void.

Mr Magashule has come under fire for his government’s spending of R140m on the provincial government website — and over allegations that a company receiving millions in government advertising spend was attempting to capture the minds of Free State residents through its acquisition of newspapers, a TV channel and community radio stations sympathetic toward Mr Magashule’s leadership.

Mr Magashule is set to contest for the position of chairman at the upcoming conference next month.

ANC Free State spokesman Oupa Khoabane said that the ANC’s national executive committee had postponed the gathering to the end of next month to allow branches to hold general meetings, and for some to elect new leaders.

Mr Khoabane said three regions were briefed on Sunday about the process — which would bring together parallel structures and elect a single set of leaders.

Complaints over illegal structures formed part of the court challenge to the outcome of a Free State elective conference held in Parys in June last year.

The national executive committee last week said progress had been made toward the province holding its elective conference. A membership audit in the province has also been finalised.

Mr Khoabane said the province had to ensure that processes were followed to the letter, so that “everyone was satisfied”.

The group which hauled the party to court last year over the June elective conference warned that the party had to first deal with the irregularities it had raised before reconvening the gathering.

The group’s spokesman, Mpho Ramakatsa, expressed satisfaction with the way party’s national leaders were dealing with the matter.

However, he said the implementation of the directives from the national office was up to the provincial task team, which was made up of members from the nowdissolved provincial leadership. He lacked faith in this group to follow the correct processes.

“Ace and his people, when, it comes to implementation, are doing different things to what the national deployees are preaching … they don’t respect the decisions of the national executive committee, they don’t respect the decisions of the ANC’s national leaders,” he said yesterday.

He said the group would “not rest until it restored the soul of the ANC” in the Free State.

The province had to ensure that processes were followed to the letter