Judgment has been reserved in the Pietermaritzburg High Court challenge by rebel ANC KwaZulu-Natal branches to the legitimacy of the governing party’s provincial executive committee elected at its controversial November 2015 conference.
Judge Sharmaine Balton, sitting with Judge Piet Koen and Judge Mahendra Chetty, are expected to transmit their judgment in the case, brought by five ANC members loyal to ousted chairperson Senzo Mchunu, to the legal teams within seven days or so.
They had earlier heard representations from counsel for the applicants Lawrence Dube, Sibahle Zikalala, Martin Mzangwa, Mzweni Ngcobo and Lindiwe Buthelezi, and from lawyers representing ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala, secretary Super Zuma and the rest of their provincial executive committee.
The applicants claim that the process of staging the conference, held six months early, was flawed as legitimate branches backing Mchunu were denied access to the conference while others backing Zikalala were allowed to field branch delegates who had been disqualified. They also claim that the result of the election, narrowly won by Zikalala’s faction, was manipulated. A tweet from the ANC Twitter account announcing the election result before voting had been concluded has been introduced as further proof of alleged wrongdoing by the secretariat which ran the conference.
The defence has challenged the locus standi of the applicants (their right to bring the application) and their late filing of the action, which they want thrown out of court.
Greg Harpur SC, counsel for Zikalala, used most of the day to rebut claims by the applicants that they had filed their application late because they had waited for internal ANC processes – including an undertaking by President Jacob Zuma that he would get back to them in five days over their complaints – to be concluded.
Harpur said that this version that Zuma had personally let them down after a promising an intervention was ‘’somewhat overstated’’ and that it was the ANC, and not the president, who had promised to look at the complaint and revert to them.
The disgruntled branch members, Harpur said, should have known that the best they could expect was a ‘’sympathetic hearing’’ and action to prevent the problems they experienced from happening again.
Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, for the applicants, said that a report by ANC NEC deployee Joe Phaahla, who oversaw the conference, showed that he had allowed it to go ahead despite ‘’suspicions’’ that delegates had been irregularly registered.
Describing Phaahla as ‘’the man who saw it all’’ and who was ‘’at the scene of the crime’’, he said the conference run up was either a carefully orchestrated to influence the outcome or an example of terrible incompetence. Either way, his clients rights to participate in a fair elective process had been compromised.