Who pays, where they stay and who counts the votes

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JULY 01: Delegates during the African National Congress (ANC) 5th national policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre on July 01, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The conference is a gathering of about 3500 delegates from branches across the country to discuss the party’s policies going into the elective conference in December, where changes and new policies will be ratified. (Photo by Gallo Images / City Press / Muntu Vilakazi)

This weekend the ANC will convene for its 54th national conference. Who pays for the conference? Where do delegates stay? Who facilitates the elections? Here are 5 things you didn’t know. 

What and where is the Nasrec Expo Centre?

The Nasrec Expo Centre in the south west of Johannesburg is where the 54th national conference of the ANC will take place. The centre is located near Gold Reef City and roughly 30 minutes’ drive from OR Tambo International Airport. It has a capacity of 100 000 people, 4000 m² of conference space and 20 000 parking bays – more than enough to accommodate the ANC members that will convene there this weekend. It also has 10 exhibition halls where vendors will have stalls and displays during the conference.

Who pays for the conference?

The ANC pays for the conference itself with money they raise from donations and sponsors. With more than 5000 delegates attending, as well as support staff, media and commentators, costs can run into the millions. The ANC’s progressive business forum (PBF) holds fundraisers and events leading up to the conference to raise money. At the national conference in Mangaung in 2012, News24 reported that mining magnate Patrice Motsepe paid R500 000 for a table to sit with President Jacob Zuma at a gala dinner.

Who attends the conference?

Altogether 5240 ANC delegates will attend this year’s conference. 90% (4731) of the delegates have been elected and mandated by the ANC’s branches to vote for the new party leadership on their behalf. Each branch of 100 members gets one delegate to the conference and for additional 250 members, they get a second delegate to the conference. In addition, the ANC Women’s, Youth and Veteran’s Leagues each gets 60 delegates. The provincial executive committees have 253 delegates at the conference and the national executive committee of the ANC has 86 delegates. While these are the official numbers, all of the delegates inevitably don’t vote, as some don’t make it to the conference.

Where do all the delegates stay?

Delegates are booked into hotels and guest houses close to the Nasrec Centre and are bussed to and from the venue every day, usually accompanied by blue light brigades. With the conference in Johannesburg this year, many of the Gauteng delegates and those who live in the city are expected to stay at their own houses. It’s at the hotels, after hours, where most of the private discussions and negotiations around voting takes place.

Who facilitates the election?

It is not, as is often thought, the Independent Electoral Commision (IEC) that facilitates the ANC election, but The Elexions Agency. The agency was established after the founders were approached by the ANC in the lead-up to its 52nd national conference in Polokwane in 2007. At that stage, the founding members, Bontle Mpakanyane and Dren Nupen, already had a combined three decades of experience in the field. Journalists remember Nupen for her somewhat exasperated attempts to keep order and discipline among delegates during plenary sessions, repeatedly saying over the microphone, “Quiet comrades, you need to hear these nominations.”