Lawyers for the ANC members challenging the November 2015 election of the party’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee say the elective meeting was held without the approval of one third of its branches, as required by its constitution.
They also claim that delays in getting the case to court are a result of President Jacob Zuma’s failure to fulfil a promise to deal with their clients’ complaints — that the conference had been rigged — within five days of his meeting them in December 2015.
Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, counsel for the five ANC members who brought the high court application to set the conference result aside, told the Pietermaritzburg court on Wednesday morning that the conference should have been held in May 2016. Instead, the provincial executive had decided to hold it early, in November 2015, but failed to secure the backing of a third of the branches to do so.
Ngcukaitobi said the decision usurped the power of the branches to call an early conference, a mistake which was “fatal’’.
Members of the sitting executive, including chairperson Sihle Zikalala, secretary Super Zuma and deputy chairperson Willies Mcuhu, sat in the gallery watching intently as Ngcukaitobi accused their previous legal team of ‘’cynical’’ attempts to delay the case.
The challenge to their election has been brought by supporters of ousted chairperson Senzo Mchunu. ANC Vryheid councillor Lawrence Dube and branch members Sibahle Zikalala, Martin Mzangwa, Mzweni Ngcobo and Lindiwe Buthelezi claim the outcome of the conference was rigged by Zikalala’s faction. They also claim that the process leading to the conference was manipulated to load delegations from the province’s 800-odd branches with pro-Zikalala delegates.
Ngcukaitobi said that after the conference, the applicants had appealed the outcome and met Zuma and other members of the ANC top six in Umhlanga on December 12 2015.
‘’He said he would respond after five days. He never did so,’’ Ngcukaitobi said.
The applicants, he said, then wrote to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe through lawyers to express their dissatisfaction. When they received no positive response and the ANC national executive committee confirmed the result, they had no choice but to go to court.
Supporters of both factions have gathered outside the court, with a row of armoured police vehicles separating them. There were tense moments at lunchtime when Zikalala’s supporters tried to force their way into the court precinct.