(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s ruling African National Congress is riven by factionalism and “thugs and gangsters” have infiltrated the process for selecting electoral candidates, according to an internal report cited by the City Press newspaper. 

The findings, tabled at a one-day sitting of the party’s national executive committee, come less than two months before municipal elections in which the party will try to claw back control of three major cities. 

Campaigning has been hit by violent disputes between supporters of rival candidates and money woes that left ANC staff unpaid for three months. 

“During all the various stages of the candidate selection process, the electoral committee and its structures encountered fierce factional tendencies,” City Press cited the report as saying. It said the internal rivalries were now at “epidemic levels.”

An ANC spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The paralysis is making it harder for the government to present a united front in tackling an economic crisis, dysfunctional public services and rampant unemployment. The party is due to pick its next presidential candidate in 2022 and incumbent Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to seek a second term. 

The report blames two dominant factions that emerged in the run-up to the last ANC primary in 2017, in which Ramaphosa edged out his rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. 

Founded in 1912, the ANC is Africa’s oldest political movement and led the fight against White-minority rule. It took power under Nelson Mandela in the first multiracial elections in 1994, and has secured an outright majority in every national vote since then. 

The party was rocked by repeated corruption scandals under Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma. The government has since estimated that more than 500 billion rand ($35 billion) was stolen from its coffers. 

Public anger at the scale of graft under Zuma saw the ANC lose control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, Tshwane, which includes the capital, Pretoria, and several other cities at the last municipal elections in 2016.

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