Court actions by three ANC provincial structures threaten to frustrate the start of the ruling party's national elective conference, scheduled to kick off in Mangaung on Sunday.
ANC members in North West, the Free State and Eastern Cape were due to know on Friday whether they would take part in the conference.
Disgruntled Free State ANC members are awaiting a Constitutional Court ruling on their application to dissolve the provincial executive committee elected earlier this year. They are threatening Mangaung delegates with an interdict if the court fails to grant them their wish.
This week, disaffected ANC members in North West followed suit and approached the high court in Mahikeng to interdict the outcome of the provincial nomination conference held two weeks ago.
Similar complaints have been raised in the Eastern Cape, with certain members intending to apply to the courts on Friday to interdict some Mangaung delegates who, they claim, have "illegally registered".
In all the cases the action has been brought by supporters of ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who has accepted the nomination to challenge Jacob Zuma for the party's presidency.
The ANC in North West opposes the application and filed its answering affidavit on Thursday. Provincial spokesperson Kenny Morolong said nothing would stop the province's 200-plus delegates from participating in the national conference.
Ratifying the outcomes
"Our delegates have already packed their bags – they're on their way to Mangaung. Our position is that the ANC's internal matters cannot be resolved by the courts."
The founding affidavit filed by North West branch members on Tuesday asked the court to declare the nomination conference held at the Rustenburg Civic Centre two weeks ago "unconstitutional, irregular, unlawful and null and void".
The applicants also wanted to interdict provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge and the provincial executive committee from ratifying the outcomes of that conference.
Unhappy branch members earlier called for the province's nominations conference to be reconvened, but were scheduled to argue on Friday that because of time pressures the alternative was to "compel the respondents to disqualify the dele-gates of the North West province from attendance of, and participation in, the national conference".
The affidavit cited a report on local government irregularities by ANC national executive committee member Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The main applicant, Kabelo Nonyana, said it "confirmed the existence of similar massive fraud which accompanied the ANC's nomination process". The alleged irregularities include "instances of criminal behaviour associated with illegal vote buying, bribery and corruption, which were intended to steal the nominations conference and its outcomes". The applicants said the provincial executive committee had ignored letters of complaint from individual members and branches.
A North West provincial executive committee member, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the ANC was yet to table its response in court, said the party would argue that the applicants did not exhaust all internal processes: "Dispute resolutions are concluded at the national conference."
The committee member said some of the complainants had not even attended the branch general meetings they were complaining about.
Although Mataboge has distanced himself from the court action, the North West applicants are mostly members who attended a parallel nominations conference convened by him in Mahikeng. Another conference sanctioned by Luthuli House was held in Hartbeespoort. The applicants claim that at the subsequent reconciliatory Rustenburg nominations conference they were replaced by fellow branch members who had not been mandated to represent their branches.
In the Eastern Cape the former youth leader of the OR Tambo region, Mawande Ndakisa, said members would seek a court interdict not because they did not respect internal processes, but because ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe refused to listen to them. "If Gwede suppresses our views, we should find an alternative way. Courts are there for such issues." He said, although his branch had failed to hold a nominations meeting three times because of violence, it was now represented by a delegate it never elected.
Mantashe said the ANC would oppose all court actions brought by its provincial structures.
"Let them do it. We're going to oppose every case that [lawyer] Dali Mpofu takes to court to try to disrupt this conference," he said.
Mpofu is representing the Free State and North West delegates.