Chaos erupted on Sunday afternoon during the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Northern Cape conference, as members armed with bricks, machetes and pangas tore into each other, trashing the venue and leaving a trail of blood.
The conference, which saw EFF members from across the province gather at the Savoy Hotel in Kimberley to elect the provincial leadership, spiralled out of control after an apparent jostling for the leadership position between the party’s incumbent provincial leader, Aubrey Baartman, and a delegate at the conference, Ronald Februarie.
On Saturday a charge of assault was laid with the police following an apparent incident between Baartman and Februarie. On Sunday the police confirmed that a case had been opened and they were investigating it, but referred all queries to the party itself.
Chaos, however, erupted at around 3pm on Sunday afternoon as a group of around 50 people stormed the Savoy Hotel in the CBD. Other EFF members fled the hotel, running into the Old De Beers Road.
One person, wearing a camouflage uniform and armed with a stun gun, was trying to “shoot” as many people as possible as they fled in all directions.
The fleeing members then armed themselves with machetes, pangas, bricks and even beer bottles and returned to the hotel premises.
The front doors of the hotel were forced open and bricks flew between the two EFF factions, with members running backwards and forwards, trying to hide behind vehicles parked in the road.
The front windscreen of a bus, which was used to ferry members to the conference, was also smashed.
At one stage, Februarie himself came running out of the building with blood pouring from his mouth and down his arm. He too ducked for cover behind cars in the road.
Inside the venue there was even more chaos, with delegates running up and down the stairs and through the passages.
Tables and chairs were smashed, as well as interior doors. Blood was smeared on the carpets and on the tiles in the passages. Both doors to the conference centre were broken and the one entrance was barricaded closed with around 10 to 15 chairs which had been stacked on top of each other.
EFF members hurled insults, slating delegates as traitors and accused each other of supporting fraudulent members.
Around 10 minutes after the chaos erupted, several police vehicles as well as security guards arrived and managed to restore order.
A journalist was forced to take cover and call to the police for assistance after delegates attempted to forcefully take his camera to prevent him from taking photographs inside the venue. The police eventually took his camera to diffuse the situation.
Baartman told journalists after the incident that the instigators behind the violence that erupted needed to be disciplined and warned that they would face disciplinary action.
“One of the heads of security was injured after a brick was thrown at him and he might even lose his eyesight,” said Baartman.
He accused a faction of hiring gangsters from Galeshewe to disrupt the proceedings.
“The entire disruption was orchestrated as all delegates were searched,” Baartman said. “There was strict security and no weapons were allowed inside the premises.”
He added that he only learnt during the course of the conference that Februarie had his sights set on the leadership position.
“Ronald comes from Gauteng and doesn’t know the people here in the province. I will not be held hostage and will continue to defend the organisation. This group are agents working for the ANC,” said Baartman.
He said the fighting broke out when a faction of members realised that they did not have enough support to oust him as provincial leader and replace him with Februarie.
Meanwhile, EFF co-ordinator, Mabatho Mokause, who herself was hit on the head with a chair, accused Baartman of being corrupt and bribing delegates with R10 000 to vote for him.
“Security guards were sent from the national office for the conference. They were supposed to have searched all the delegates but they only searched the supporters of Februarie, forcing them to strip all the way down to their underwear,” said Mokause.
She called for Baartman to be removed as the provincial leader. “The national leadership must intervene now. This conference cannot go on – none of the votes cast here are valid.”
Mokause also accused Baartman of having several cases against him.
“We cannot have a leader who has so many cases against him. We are trying to teach our youngsters about politics. We cannot have a leadership that is corrupt. Baartman must go!”
Source: Diamond Fields Advertiser