The ANC’s national dispute resolution committee will go into top gear this weekend to try to resolve issues in several provinces, including legal challenges in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, before Monday’s special national executive committee (NEC) meeting.
The disputes, if they are decided by the courts and not internally, could jeopardise the standing of the party’s December national conference at which Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president by a slim majority.
This weekend, ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte will lead a dispute resolution team to KwaZulu-Natal to try to convince ANC members from the three regions who interdicted last weekend’s provincial conference to rescind their high court application.
On Monday, disgruntled Eastern Cape members are expected to challenge the result of last year’s provincial conference in the Johannesburg high court.
The two cases, and another in the Free State, are likely to be high on the agenda of the NEC meeting, where there will be a proposal for action to be taken against all ANC members who have taken the party to court since the national conference.
In the Eastern Cape, there are fears that an imminent court bid could lead to the nullification of the provincial elective conference, which would have a ripple effect on the results of the national conference.
The Johannesburg high court will hear a separate case by four Eastern Cape ANC members who want to compel the NEC to take a clear stand on a report that called for the provincial elective conference (PEC) to be nullified.
The report, compiled by NEC member Sbu Ndebele, called for the party to set aside the outcome of the conference, which it said should not have gone ahead after widespread resistance and violent clashes.
According to insiders, the NEC does not agree with the findings of the report and has rejected its recommendations. But the disgruntled party members want the ANC either to adopt the report and implement its recommendations or to explain why it has rejected it.
A senior Eastern Cape ANC member said that because the Eastern Cape PEC had participated in the national conference, a court decision to adopt the Ndebele report would inevitably nullify that conference’s outcomes.
“When the court nullifies that thing [provincial conference], it has automatically nullified the national conference. You must remember the people who were affected at the [national] conference … You had the KZN [KwaZulu-Natal] PEC, North West Bojanala region, your FS [Free State] PEC. They were not allowed to participate because there were court implications,” the source said.
“Even the Eastern Cape, there was a court issue in Grahamstown whose judgment was under appeal. If they [the NEC] were clever at Nasrec, they should have excluded the Eastern Cape PEC from participating. But they participated.”
The lawyer for the disgruntled group, Wikus van Rensburg, said the ANC had still not filed opposing papers. He believed there was a good likelihood of the court granting his clients’ application.
“The court will listen to the arguments on the unopposed basis and make a decision,” Van Rensburg said. “I think the court is going to grant us our application and compel them to make a decision. It’s nothing complicated what my clients want.”
Since the Eastern Cape conference last September, there have been several attempts by those opposed to the new chairperson, the Ramaphosa-aligned Oscar Mabuyane, to have the PEC dissolved.
Former PEC member Andile Lungisa, who is part of a dissenting group seeking to resolve the matter internally, said there was no objection to the four members choosing to go to court.
“We have raised the matter internally and we are waiting for that process to be concluded,” Lungisa said. “But I don’t think there is anything wrong with any other member who feels like they have exhausted all efforts to take further action [in court].”
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said the special NEC meeting would discuss the various court cases but couldn’t say whether there was concern about both the Eastern Cape and the KwaZulu-Natal conferences being nullified.
“This will be the most appropriate platform to update members of the NEC on developments, whether it be the Eastern Cape or any other province,” he said. “It is only fair to allow the special NEC to sit, get reports on various provinces, make decisions on those and convey our position to the public.”
The NEC is also expected to discuss the looming court case in the Free State where some members are unhappy about the election of a new PEC. They are arguing that the May elective conference was convened in contravention of a December court order, which instructed the party in the Free State to rerun all irregular branch general meetings before holding a provincial conference.
The disaffected members claim last month’s gathering, at which transport MEC Sam Mashinini was elected party chairperson in the province, was held without fulfilling that order. However, the new PEC claims it did rerun the meetings but excluded branches that had failed to fulfil their obligations.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the dispute resolution committee will meet the provincial task team and members of the disbanded Moses Mabhida, Harry Gwala and Lower South Coast regions, who last Friday interdicted the provincial conference from going ahead.
The group — Reshma Brijraj, Moosa Manyoni, Muntuza Mkhize, Siyabonga Hlongwa, Bheki Nzimande and Zoliswa Nyide — secured the interim interdict on the basis that the conference would go ahead with fewer than 90% of the voting delegates coming from branches.
In papers before the high court in Pietermaritzburg, they argued that a large number of disputes that had been brought before the dispute resolution committee had not been resolved and that holding the conference at such short notice meant it would go ahead without meeting the NEC’s stipulations.
On the Lower South Coast, 32 branches with a combined membership of more than 3 000 had submitted appeals, with only 25 of these being processed by the time the matter went to court.
The conference was “premature [and] noncompliant with the ANC’s constitution, and will accordingly be unlawful if it proceeds”, they said.
The 11th-hour halting of the conference, which was to be held at the University of Zululand, enraged delegates, who heckled ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe when he tried to address them. Mantashe has called for disciplinary action to be taken against them, with the delegates in turn demanding action against those who brought the court application. They want the conference to be held by the end of July.
Sihle Zikalala, who led those supporting Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s presidential bid at the ANC national conference, said the dispute resolution committee would meet the applicants and the provincial task team “dealing with all the issues raised by the branches”.
He said the task team was preparing to go back to court to challenge the order. At the same time, it was trying to resolve the issue politically by “engaging” the applicants. A decision about whether to act against the latest group of rebels to take the party to court would be taken after the applicants have had an opportunity to explain their actions and outline their complaints.
“We don’t want to close the door on those who want to engage. On the other side, we are still getting ready to go to court. The problem is to ensure that we reach out to the comrades who feel left out. We have done a lot to engage the comrades. I think we will continue to engage in this process,” Zikalala said.
“ANC issues are, in most cases, not resolved through the courts but through political engagement. We will have to engage with them, understand why they had to do this. We will have to look at whether we have to continue with disciplinary action or whether they rescind the action and co-operate,’’ Zikalala said.
Political analyst Lukhona Mnguni said that, although he believed the ANC could deal with the KwaZulu-Natal impasse, the political will to do so was not there.
“There is not an appetite to resolve these issues. Dealing with them means people must compromise and give up some of their political influence in exchange for unity,’’ Mnguni said.
“It does seem that the deal in the province must centre around the leadership of Zikalala. Those who oppose him will act as spoilers in any unity attempt,” he said.
“The ANC’s electoral processes are highly archaic and ineffective. I don’t think there is any ANC conference in any part of the country that could be held without the possibility of it being challenged. The issue is that the mood prevailing is one of seeking consensus.”
Mnguni said that, if all parties discussed the issues in good faith, “it is possible to resolve this in two weeks”.