The first day of the KwaZulu-Natal ANC Youth League congress was marred with violence, disruptions and delays.
The two-day congress, currently under way at a sport and leisure centre in Port Shepstone, was scheduled to begin at 13:00 on Saturday.
However it only started in the early hours of Sunday morning after disgruntled members were barred from entering the gates because they were causing disruptions.
On Saturday night police formed a wall in front of the gate, preventing the disgruntled members from entering the venue.
Shortly after that police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse visibly intoxicated members who tried to force their way in. Two people were allegedly shot with rubber bullets during a standoff between the police and the disgruntled members.
The KZN African National Congress Youth League was expected to vote for new leadership after it was dissolved in 2011
Umvoti Mayor Thami Ngubane is contesting the chairmanship position with Sipho Hlomuka from the eThekwini region.
Bongo Nombekelo, from ward 64 in eThekwini region said he arrived at 09:00 on Saturday and found that there was no sequence in the registration process.
“When we went to the civic centre to go and register the officials all ran away because they wanted to deny us an opportunity to participate in the congress. We came all the way from the eThekwini region and when we got to the venue, no one was there.
“We have still not registered. We were denied access to participate,” claimed Nombekelo.
Ndoda Mthembu, who was one of the members that was barred from entering said: “Delegates from regions have been left outside, and that is the crux of the matter”.
“All of these buses come from Ukhahlamba, far north, half of Musa Dladla and [the] eThekwini region have been left outside. We have been told that this is an ANCYL conference but we are standing outside, that is why comrades are angry,” Mthembu said.
“They have deployed police to deal with us and we are willing to stay here all night if we have to. We haven’t slept for two days preparing for this conference so we are not going to give up now because we do not want leadership to be elected there.
“Many young people that were here ran away after the shots were fired. Our mission is to stay here until they address us. We want our own preferred candidate not the one that the ANC wants us to vote for.
“We have Thami Shezi as the proposed secretary of the Youth League in KZN and we want to raise our voice by putting in Sipho Hlomuka in as the preferred candidate for chairperson.
Bongani Khulusa, also from the eThekwini region said: “There were delegates that were hit with rubber bullets and they have been taken to the hospital. The branch chairperson of ward 82 in Umlazi, Bongani Hadebe was taken to the hospital.
“This is wrong, things have gotten out of hand. We will stand and raise our issues and we want them to be dealt with.”
Provincial ANC chairperson Senzo Mchunu lambasted the ANCYL during his opening address.
“We started the day on a very slow start, this is disappointing. The conference was organised to start at 13:00 it is now midnight. This is the conference of the youth league, it should have started on time.
“We have had a number of discussions about what caused the delays and we need to ask ourselves what was it that prevented us from starting on time when we are the ruling party and have everything at our disposal.”
Mchunu said he was aware of reports that a group stormed the administration building during registration and “took some of the material”.
“Some of the comrades were allegedly threatened and attacked with violence. I condemn this kind of activities in the strongest terms. ANC meetings are supposed to be a festival of ideas.
“Today… we speak about violence and threats, this is disappointing and regrettable and to some extent a little bit alarming.”
He said a gradual change in the character of the ANC in the province had been observed and the matter was being addressed.
“[The] violence that we are hearing about today is the same violence that we have been hearing about in some of the branches all over the province where there would be fist fighting and beatings… where there would be firearms used in some cases. We are told that pepper spray is used in ANC meetings,” he said.
“People are going through disciplinary hearings but this continues to happen. Perhaps the ANCYL is saying we saw this happening in the mother body. I am utterly disappointed in the behaviour of some of the members.”
Delegates voted for their preferred candidate in the early hours of the morning, and the new leadership would be announced later on Sunday.