Free State ANC chairperson Sam Mashinini was not wrong in filing an intent to appeal the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling that dissolved the provincial executive committee (PEC), ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe has told the Mail & Guardian.
Mantashe spoke to the M&G on Monday about the impasse in the Free State leadership, which saw Mashinini and provincial secretary Paseka Nompondo displaying conflicting views last week.
This followed an instruction by the national working committee (NWC) to the provincial leadership to find a “political solution” with its detractors, after the courts declared the PEC unlawful.
In a twist, Mashinini — with the endorsement of ANC secretary general Ace Magashule — appeared to be contravening the NWC instruction by filing a notice to appeal the SCA judgment at the Constitutional Court.
Days later, Nompondo instructed ANC lawyers at Moroka Attorneys to urgently file a notice to the Constitutional Court withdrawing the application to appeal, pending the finalisation of the unity talks.
In the letter, which the M&G has seen, Nompondo said Mashinini had no authority to act on behalf of the PEC, adding that an instruction to appeal would be issued only from the office of the provincial secretary.
In other correspondence with Magashule, Nompondo had asked for permission to file a notice of appeal with the apex court, saying that there was a good prospect of success.
Mantashe, however, has told the M&G that he had communicated the decision of the NWC to the Free State leadership — which gave them space to file a notice to appeal.
Mantashe accused the two leaders of creating an “artificial disagreement”.
“Some people enjoy disagreement, because disagreement creates a very convenient environment for any opportunist. Any opportunist thrives in disagreements. I was sent to the Free State to communicate the decision of the officials,” Mantashe said.
“I say to them, ‘Guys, officials are of the view that you should put a lot of energy, resources, and time into unifying the province with the intention of building a vibrant ANC. Towards the end of the period of appeal, if you have not concluded your work, submit your notice that you want to appeal and the deadline is 22 April’,” Mantashe said.
The ANC’s national chairperson added that by filing a notice of appeal, the PEC could still use the courts as an option, should the two leaders reach a deadlock in their unity talks.
Mantashe said he was “not surprised” by the decision to file an intent to appeal, because it was close to the court’s deadline of April 22.
“There is nothing wrong there, except that people enjoy disagreeing.”
He criticised Mashinini for breaking rank by usurping the authority of the provincial secretary and filing the intent to appeal.
“Mashinini was the chair of the dissolved PEC, I think that confuses him as the iron man. He doesn’t see the importance of working with the team to achieve whatever he wants to achieve. He wanted to break ranks and they have an artificial disagreement on this issue,” Mantashe said.
The dissolution of the Free State PEC, which was instituted during a provincial election in 2018, is another blow to an already bruised Magashule, who is on a campaign to overturn a decision that he should step aside from his position in the party before the end of the month.
Magashule and several other ANC leaders facing criminal charges received a red card when the NEC resolved that all those facing court charges should step aside from their roles in the party.
The decision came during a fierce meeting that turned chaotic as Magashule’s loyalists threatened to resign. President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his closing address that those who refused to step aside after 30 days would be suspended.
Magashule, a former chair in the province, was relying on his ally Mashinini and the Free State PEC to rally support in the province at regions and branches in an attempt to convince the national executive committee to reverse its decision or pressure it to go to a special conference.
Ramaphosa will be meeting the dissolved PEC and those challenging it — including Magashule’s detractors — on Tuesday in a bid to stamp his authority on the province, one source told the M&G.