GP ANC court bat­tle could spark cri­sis

A dis­pute in the party’s least prob­lem­atic prov­ince places its up­com­ing elec­tive con­fer­ence in peril

Mail & Guardian - - News - Di­neo Bendile

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 sec­ond­most-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.

Dis­unity: 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. Photo: Del­wyn Verasamy

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