GP ANC court battle could spark crisis

The ANC in Gauteng is not known for taking its internal disputes to the courts — a fact that usually sets it apart from its counterparts in a number of other provinces. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The ANC in Gauteng is not known for taking its internal disputes to the courts — a fact that usually sets it apart from its counterparts in a number of other provinces. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Another ANC court battle is looming that could hamper the party’s ability to hold its Gauteng elective conference next week.

Disgruntled branches in the Johannesburg region are threatening to turn to the courts to have the results of the regional elective conference held two weeks ago nullified.

They are alleging that the party has allowed nonvoting delegates to elect new leaders, that some nominated candidates were left off the ballot and that the conference proceeded despite credentials not being adopted.

The Mail & Guardian has seen correspondence between the disaffected group and the ANC’s secretary general, Ace Magashule, whom they have asked to refer the matter to the party’s national executive committee.

The complaint was referred to the ANC’s national dispute resolution committee (NDRC), which last week completed a report that upheld the outcome of the Johannesburg conference. It said the claim that the conference had proceeded without adopting credentials was a “strange phenomenon”. “The committee notes that the complainants agree that all other reports were adopted, but they cannot remember the credentials being adopted at plenary,” reads the report. “The NDRC therefore confirms that the Johannesburg regional conference was quorate and in good standing.”

The committee’s decision to reject the complaint has prompted threats of legal action by party members who said they were left with no other choice. “The NDRC is the final arbiter for aggrieved people in the organisation. So we have obviously exhausted all internal processes, ” said Lucky Kgatle, one of the complainants. “We will reply back to the committee. Our response will be to welcome their feedback but also inform the committee of our intention to consider legal processes.”

The dispute centres on the role of “alternative” delegates at the conference. These are standby delegates who are nominated by their branches to vote only in the event that the primary branch representatives are unable to participate. The disgruntled members are alleging that, even though all primary delegates were present, alternative delegates were still allowed to vote, therefore bringing into question the conference’s composition.

Added to this, they claim some party members had been omitted from the ballot paper, despite being nominated for leadership positions by their branches. In its explanation to the NDRC, Johannesburg’s regional leadership dismissed both allegations and said the alternative delegates were entitled to vote because the conference needed the additional numbers to reach a quorum.

“There was a shortfall of 84 delegates to meet the 90% [needed for a quorum], to which they took a decision in consultation with the provincial leadership to invite one alternate per branch that is elected at the branch general meeting to form part of branch delegates,” the region said in its explanation to the committee.

The regional leadership also said the nominees who had been left off the ballot paper had likely not signed their nomination acceptance forms, which is why they were excluded. The NDRC has accepted the region’s explanations as plausible.

Kgatle said that, although the unhappy members did not believe the omissions had been a deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of the conference, they would still push to have the matter addressed.

He also said the legal action was not an attempt to block next week’s provincial conference from proceeding and was only intended to correct a “constitutional irregularity”.

“We are not obsessed about any other thing. We are not doing this with the intention of anything except to correct the constitutional irregularities that we observed at the Johannesburg conference. As to what happens anywhere else, we are not going to be part of that,” Kgatle said.

Their dispute could have an impact on the upcoming provincial conference should a court nullify the Johannesburg result. Added to this, there are also murmurs of unhappiness among some members of the West Rand and Sedibeng regions.

The ANC has faced legal action over its elective conferences in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and, most recently, Limpopo. Gauteng has largely been considered one of its less dispute-ridden provinces. The prospect of Gauteng also being plunged into legal clashes casts the ANC in a dim light.

While the party deals with the isolated disputes, Gauteng leadership hopefuls are gearing up for an intense battle for the position of provincial deputy chairperson. Supporters of economic development MEC Lebogang Maile and education MEC Panyaza Lesufi were equally confident that their candidates stood a good chance of being elected.

Party insiders have told the M&G that the third candidate contesting the position, Parks Tau, is considering withdrawing from the race because of a limited support base that is predominantly located in the Johannesburg region.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura is expected to be elected uncontested as the ANC’s new provincial chairperson. Those supporting Maile for the deputy chair position have used the generational-mix argument to push for him to take over the second- most-powerful party position in the province. Lesufi’s supporters believe his performance as education MEC has given him the popularity the ANC needs ahead of the 2019 general elections. Maile’s lobbyists have reportedly been trying to persuade Lesufi to settle for the post of provincial treasurer, but Lesufi is said to have declined the offer.

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