Ace’s hand is a tight fist for litigious party members

Ace Magashule says ANC disputes will be resolved internally under a new committee. (Rogan Ward)

Ace Magashule says ANC disputes will be resolved internally under a new committee. (Rogan Ward)

Members of the ANC who take the party to court could find themselves having to pay hefty legal bills in future, if ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has his way.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian at his office at Luthuli House on Thursday, Magashule revealed the party’s plan to punish members who take it to court by ensuring they pay their legal fees if they lose their cases. Magashule said, in the past, the ANC paid the legal fees even when the applicants lost cases because they were members of the ANC.

Now that the party has established the national dispute resolution committee to afford members the opportunity to resolve matters internally, Magashule said the party would be in a position to prove to the courts that it did everything it could to resolve disputes internally.

“With time this thing of taking the party to court won’t happen because people are going to lose their cases.
We can now prove to the courts that we have done our best to resolve the disputes internally. Grievances would no longer be legitimate. We are going to start going to people to say: ‘Pay legal costs.’ We have lawyers to pay and we are going to start recouping the money,” said Magashule.

The governing party has been facing a number of legal challenges in various provinces including KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, as more and more ordinary members resort to court to resolve internal disputes. Disgruntled ANC members in Limpopo have threatened to interdict the provincial conference this weekend, saying they did not recognise the current executive committee under ANC provincial chair and Premier Stan Mathabatha. They claim the term of the current executive committee expired in February and want Luthuli House to establish a task team to oversee the conference. The legal threat comes two weeks after disgruntled members in KwaZulu-Natal successfully interdicted their provincial conference. ANC members from the Eastern Cape were at the South Gauteng high court on Monday to force the ANC to abide by its report by former KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sbu Ndebele to implement its recommendation that the current provincial executive committee be disbanded.

Magashule said the party was doing everything it could to eliminate further court challenges to allow the party time to campaign for the 2019 elections. The party was also trying hard to mend relations with its alliance partners, and it was considering the proposal to reconfigure the alliance.

The calls for a reconfiguration of the alliance involve altering the manner in which decision-making powers are allocated. Both the South African Communist Party and Cosatu have expressed unhappiness about the ANC being declared the strategic centre of power and want power to be shared as a collective.

The alliance partners would like to see equal powers to implement policy, decide on deployments and hold poor leaders to account.

The SACP has taken its unhappiness further by wielding its 2017 resolution to contest elections independently as an axe over the ANC’s head. It has threatened to contest the 2019 national elections independently.

Its sentiments were echoed by Cosatu, which has said the alliance reached an agreement in 2008 to have the collective be the strategic centre of power. The federation has lamented the fact that, despite this agreement, the movement was somehow reverting to a model in which the ANC was the strategic centre.

Magashule said alliance partners would convene an alliance council early next month to consider a paper by the SACP, which proposes a reconfigured alliance.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004.
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