A top ANC leader has challenged the party’s national officials, including President Jacob Zuma, about their backing of a high court appeal by its KwaZulu-Natal officials, claiming the national executive committee (NEC) never gave them the authority to do so.
The claim was made by the governing party’s head of economic transformation and NEC member Enoch Godongwana this week in an email attached to an application for a declaratory order to the high court by ANC branches loyal to ousted chairperson Senzo Mchunu.
The declaratory application seeks to force the sitting provincial executive committee out of office while its appeal against the September 12 judgment, which declared it “unlawful and void”, is heard.
In an email to the ANC top six officials on October 9 titled “Status of the KZN PEC”, Godongwana said he had attended both NEC meetings that “dealt with the KZN court ruling on the status of the provincial conference and its decisions”.
“The court decided that both the conference and its decision are null and void. None of the meetings above agreed to appeal the decision,” Godongwana said.
He said the NEC members had been “informed by the media” of provincial secretary Super Zuma’s statement that the NEC had agreed to appeal the decision of the full Bench of the high court in Pietermaritzburg.
“Comrade Super Zuma is not empowered to speak on behalf of the NEC,” Godongwana said in the email.
Godongwana also questioned the failure by the national officials to appoint a provincial task team (PTT) in line with the NEC decision ahead of the branch nomination process.
“There is an added challenge because we are now engaged in branch nomination. We need a legitimate structure in KZN to co-ordinate the nominations. It is alleged that an appeal has been lodged with the supreme Court. Lodging the appeal is insufficient for the PEC to operate. The PEC must be granted leave to appeal by the supreme court before they can operate legally,” he said.
But in an interview with the Mail & Guardian on Thursday, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe defended the PEC members, saying they were empowered to appeal the judgment because legal counsel sought by the NEC advised them to.
He said both legal opinions — sought by the NEC and another by Jacob Zuma — presented in the NEC advised that the judgment declaring the 2015 KwaZulu-Natal conference null and void was misdirected.
Mantashe said counsel had focused “particularly [on] the appealability of the matter based on the distortion of the constitution of the ANC. Senior counsel explains that the judgment is misdirected on this issue … Therefore it [the legal opinion] is standing because it is empowered by NEC.”
In his affidavit, filed at the Pietermaritzburg high court, Vryheid councillor Lawrence Dube questioned the role of the ANC national working committee (NWC), which the NEC had asked to appoint the task team.
“The NWC does not have greater powers than the NEC. The NEC is the highest decision-making body in-between national conferences. First, the judgment has been accepted. Second, there must be a PTT, which must work towards the holding of a provincial conference,’’ Dube said.
Mantashe said the PEC could still be dissolved at the next NEC meeting, and the national officials are trying to set up a joint PTT.
“Officials were given a responsibility to go and find a political solution in KZN. It means, instead of going hard on any of them, let’s talk to each other and that has been done, and it’s almost going to be finalised. The task team has not been put together yet … The required solution in KZN is where these groups can coexist and work together for unity.”
Dube said the PEC had committed an act of “grave misconduct” by going ahead with the appeal. He said that, in the earlier case, Mantashe had signed a confirmatory affidavit supporting the PEC’s opposition to the court application.
Dube said decisions were being taken by the PEC involving public funds and that allowing them to do so would be a violation of the Public Finance Management Act, which says decisions with financial implications for the state could not be taken by a structure that was not lawful.
Dube said it was clear the lodging of the application for leave to appeal was a “delaying tactic” aimed at gaining political advantage.
He said KwaZulu-Natal’s 870 delegates to the national conference had to be selected in accordance with a lawful process. Any deviation from this could taint the conference.
The participation of an unlawful PEC “creates the risk of an illegal national conference”, Dube added.
He said it was clear the PEC had “no intention” of abiding by the earlier judgment and was committing contempt of court.
Meanwhile, Mantashe said he would not induct the Eastern Cape PEC on Sunday, despite a notice being sent out by the new leadership that this would happen.
“I’ll ask them to settle [the dispute]. There is nothing particular requiring us to induct them immediately. And particularly because there were issues in that conference, it will look very peculiar to run into the induction.”
The NEC deployees met the national officials this week, and said the election of Oscar Mabuyane as chairperson, along with the rest of the PEC, was legitimate.
“All NEC members are unanimous that the process was carried out correctly; the other group was determined to ensure the conference did not take place. You can’t say the NEC members are wrong for refusing to help collapse the conference,” a senior NEC member, who requested anonymity, told the Mail & Guardian.
But the officials also received a report from disgruntled delegates who claim they were violently forced out of the conference.
This week was the first time the NEC deployees and disgruntled delegates met national officials since the violent brawl between rival factions at the East London International Convention Centre. The NEC deployees’ report details their version of how the event descended into chaos.
The appeal by the PEC members who did not take part in the elections is signed off by former chairperson and premier Phumulo Masualle, Sakhumzi Somyo and other former PEC members. It claims that delegates who supported Masualle’s bid to be re-elected were forced out of the venue, and the violence was sparked by NEC deployee Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s call for delegates to vote on credentials.
Mabuyane told the M&G that the newly elected leadership had not yet met the province’s branches “but the PEC is continuing its work. It’s first meeting will take place on Sunday and Monday.”
Without the NEC’s blessing, the Eastern Cape PEC cannot preside over branch general meetings meant to nominate candidates for the top positions that will be contested at the December conference.
The province has lost its status as the ANC’s second-largest province, being replaced by Mpumalanga, because membership has declined by 30% over five years. It will be represented by 648 delegates at the party’s elective conference in December.
But Mabuyane said where those delegates will come from is not yet sure.
“We are still trying to catch up, we still have a membership audit report to be finalised, we haven’t received signed copy from the secretary general [Mantashe].”
The Eastern Cape’s loyalty is divided between deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Ramaphosa has emerged as the most favoured candidate but lobbyists for Dlamini-Zuma this week appeared confident of drawing more support.