The ANC’s decision to disband its North West provincial executive committee (PEC) was unlawful, the high court in Johannesburg ruled this week.
On Wednesday, Judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane handed down a judgment that ordered the reinstatement of the PEC and the return of North West’s erstwhile premier Supra Mahumapelo as its chairperson.
The PEC should be reinstated within two days of the judgment, the court ordered.
The appointment of the provincial task team after the PEC’s disbandment was declared unlawful and the ANC was ordered to pay the legal costs of the two high court bids.
The judgment contains a stinging rebuke of the party’s consultative process leading up to the disbandment of the PEC last year and found that it did not comply with the ANC’s procedures.
The judgment describes the ANC’s failure to consult the four branches that voted in the PEC as “fatal”.
“It is clear from the undisputed facts that these so-called consultative meetings did not meet the standard of procedural fairness as they were not properly convened,” the judgment reads. “In short, the so-called consultative meetings were shambolic, chaotic and rowdy.”
The judgment also describes the dissolution of the PEC a “drastic and draconian measure”.
In August last year, the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) confirmed the disbandment of the North West PEC, after a protracted crisis in the province.
In April, the province was gripped by protests and people throughout the North West called on the ANC to remove Mahumapelo. They were particularly angry about allegations that his government had spent R180-million on a contract with a Gupta-linked business but no work was done. Healthcare and other services have been derailed as a result.
Mahumapelo stepped down as premier a month later, spelling the eventual end for the PEC. He has maintained that his downfall was linked to a purge in the party after the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC president at the party’s 2017 national conference. Ramaphosa narrowly defeated Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
In November, Mahumapelo and other disgruntled ANC members approached the high court in an urgent bid to have the NEC decision to strip him and the provincial executive of their powers overturned.
The matter was dismissed on the basis of a lack of urgency. After this week’s judgment, Mahumapelo said that, despite a celebration in the courtroom, he was “not elated” by the decision because he and his fellow applicants should never have had to seek court action in the first place. Speaking about the factionalism in the ANC, Mahumapelo said members had to recognise political differences as a strength rather than a threat to unity.
On Wednesday, the ANC said it would study the judgment. “We call upon our structures in the North West to remain focussed on mobilisation for an overwhelming ANC victory in the upcoming elections,” the party said in a statement.
Mahumapelo has secured a provisional place on the ANC’s draft parliamentary list despite being plagued by a number of scandals, including reports that he was behind the illegal investing of R314-million that municipalities in the province had made in the now collapsed VBS Mutual Bank.
On Wednesday, he said he was not concerned about whether the ANC would welcome his reinstatement or not. “I am never worried about anything. I have passed the stage of anxiety,” he said.