Disgruntled ANC Free State branch members have accused the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) of being in contempt of a court order, and threatened to go to court if it failed to prevent the provincial branches from voting at the party's 53rd national conference.
The ANC NEC disbanded the Free State provincial executive committee (PEC) on Saturday following a Constitutional Court order that declared the province's newly elected PEC and its decisions null and void.
Following its decision to disband the Free State PEC, the NEC said it would, however, allow branches to participate in the national conference. It also allowed Free State Premier Ace Magashule to attend the conference in his capacity as an ANC NEC member and not as a member of the PEC.
"On December 15 2012, you announced an NEC decision which resonated with your aforementioned utterances, essentially to the effect that firstly, the delegates of the Free State, and not the members of the PEC will be allowed to attend and participate normally in the national conference scheduled to start shortly in Mangaung," said the appellants in a letter of demand addressed to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and the ANC NEC.
"Secondly, it appears that the NEC and some of the ANC structures have also failed, and/or are likely to fail, to give effect to and to comply with the clear order and directive of the North West High Court. Thirdly, the NEC as it is entitled to do, has decided and purported to appoint an interim provincial structure but in doing so, it has returned Mr Ace Magashule, who was the 'chairperson' of the unlawful PEC. We are instructed to inform you, and all those to whom this letter is addressed, as we hereby do, that abovementioned conduct amounts to at least three counts of contempt of court."
Addressing a media briefing on Sunday, Mpho Ramakatsa, one of the successful appellants to the Constitutional Court, told journalists that he had written and submitted a letter to the ANC NEC advising it that the national conference was in contempt of court. Ramakatsa confirmed that he had met with lawyers on Sunday, but declined to comment on whether he would go to court on Monday to interdict the national conference.
"We have written a letter to the NEC to express our dissatisfaction with the way it responded to the court order. The NEC is in contempt of court. The court order was clear. It set aside the provincial executive committee and its subsequent decisions. The PEC organised the branch general meetings and presided over them. They are therefore null and void as well, and should not be participating in the conference. Should they allow the provincial delegates to vote then the NEC would be in contempt of court," said Ramakatsa.
Ramakatsa said after the Constitutional Court order the group tried to engage ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, but he refused to listen to their side of the story.
"We tried to engage the secretary general but he has been arrogant. The entire leadership has turned a blind eye on the court order. We are fully behind Mangaung, but all activities that are illegal should not be allowed to proceed.
"We will seek recourse by approaching the courts to review the outcome of Mangaung conference. The ANC under Zuma and Mantashe has deteriorated. There is general disillusionment among ANC members and the society at large. The ANC is not in safe hands under Zuma and Mantashe. We need to save the soul of the ANC."
A disgruntled North West branch member told the Mail & Guardian that he and others would approach the court to challenge the decisions of the national conference because it was unlawful. He said the national conference was in contempt of the Mahikeng High Court because it failed to deal with the North West's disputes.
"The conference is unlawful," the member said. "It failed to comply with the judgment which said: 'The national conference of the ANC is directed to consider issues raised by the applicants in this application by exercising powers in terms of rule 11.3 of the ANC constitution'."
President Jacob Zuma, delivering his political report, told delegates that it was unacceptable that ANC members were taking the party to court before exhausting all internal processes.
"Comrades the ANC should also revisit the matter of people who take the ANC to court when they are unhappy with a particular decision. Some comrades do this even before exhausting internal processes. It is totally unacceptable. All these tendencies have been creeping into the movement gradually," said Zuma.