/ 5 January 2018

NEC decision on 68 excluded delegates crucial for provinces

Courting trouble: Ace Magashule's backers sing his praises before the ANC's top six were announced. He was elected secretary general but some delegates contest this because they couldn't vote. Photo: Oupa Nkosi/ M&G
Courting trouble: Ace Magashule's backers sing his praises before the ANC's top six were announced. He was elected secretary general but some delegates contest this because they couldn't vote. Photo: Oupa Nkosi/ M&G

As the ANC’s newly elected national executive committee (NEC) prepares for its crucial first meeting, legal action over the exclusion of delegates from voting at the national elective conference in December is likely to continue.

The NEC meeting will lay out the ANC’s programme for the year and discuss how to handle the transition from former party president Jacob Zuma’s leadership to that of incumbent Cyril Ramaphosa. Zuma’s critics are likely to call for his recall as president of the country for his involvement in the alleged state capture by the controversial Gupta family.

The high court challenge to the exclusion of 68 delegates from Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, notice for which was served on the ANC at the Nasrec conference centre in Johannesburg after the vote for the top six posts, has implications for secretary general Ace Magashule.

Magashule beat Senzo Mchunu by a 24-vote margin and Mchunu’s supporters served a notice of legal action to demand that the delegates’ votes be counted. The 68 came from branches that had been disqualified during the branch general meeting process in the provinces, but which had been given voting status by the conference, which was later revoked.

The conference’s steering committee eventually allowed only 15 of the 68 delegates to participate, and Magashule retained the secretary general’s post.

Ramaphosa met the delegates to try to persuade them to withdraw the court challenge.

It is understood that, although a meeting was held on December 22 between the ANC’s legal department and lawyers for the affected branches to resolve the matter, preparations are afoot for a review application to be brought in the high court in Johannesburg.

A source with intimate knowledge of the process, who is not authorised to speak to the media, said this week that the legal team representing the branches had been given a mandate to prepare to go to court before the end of January. This was confirmed by a second independent source.

The first source said that disbarred delegates from about 20 branches in Limpopo were busy with the process of providing authority to the lawyers involved.

The 12 branches from the ANC’s Abaqulusi region in KwaZulu-Natal were waiting to see what the ANC’s NEC did to resolve the matter, he said.

“The branch members in Limpopo have started doing the declarations of authority confirming that they are giving the lawyers instruction,” the source said. “They are getting ready to go to court. The comrades in KwaZulu-Natal are still waiting to see what comes from the NEC meeting. We are hopeful that a sober NEC will decide to do the correct thing.”

Dexter Selepe, the attorney for some of the branches, did not return calls or messages from the Mail & Guardian.

Branch members from Limpopo said they were also awaiting the outcome of the NEC.

“We are still waiting for clarity from the leadership,” said one member who is not authorised to speak to the media. “So far it seems like it will continue. The NEC is going to discuss the matter. If there is not a resolution of this matter, we will take a decision then.”

The NEC is also expected to deal with the leadership crises in Free State and KwaZulu-Natal, whose provincial executive committees were barred as voting delegates because of high court challenges to the conferences that elected them.

The party’s top structure will now have to appoint provincial task teams to oversee fresh party elections in the two provinces.

The NEC will have to do the same in the Bojanala region in North West, where the outcome of the regional conference was also set aside by the high court.

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee (PEC), led by chairperson Sihle Zikalala and secretary Super Zuma, has continued to operate after the national conference despite an order granted by the high court to enforce the September  12 high court judgment in Pietermaritzburg, which declared their election unlawful and null and void.

Luthuli House also appears to have recognised the disbarred PEC and has been communicating with them about activities in the province linked to the party’s January 8 celebrations.

On Wednesday Magashule wrote to Zuma about preparations for wreath-laying ceremonies at the graves of former ANC presidents John Dube, Albert Luthuli and Josiah Gumede in Pietermaritzburg, KwaDukuza and Durban, as well as a visit to the family of ANC founder Pixley ka Seme. The letter, which the M&G has seen, also discusses preparations for a meeting with King Goodwill Zwelithini involving the ANC’s top six and the KwaZulu-Natal provincial and regional party leadership.

Super Zuma confirmed that the PEC was continuing to operate, saying they would do so “until Luthuli House advises us otherwise”.

“I don’t understand what the problem is. We are correct in terms of legal process. We have instituted an appeal against the enforcement order. We have also appealed against the September 12 judgement. While we are appealing, we have the legal right to stay in office,” Zuma said.

Lawrence Dube, the main applicant on behalf of the branches that unseated the KwaZulu-Natal PEC, said Zuma appeared to be defying the courts.

“The court has made it clear that the PEC is illegitimate. This means that there has to be a provincial task team put in place to oversee the election of a new leadership in the province,” Dube said. “We are all supposed to wait for the NEC to decide on the process. Here we have an unlawful structure continuing to operate in defiance of the courts.”