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Almost 400 of 750 voting delegates were excluded from the conference at which the ANC Free State chose its provincial executive committee because of procedural irregularities, the Constitutional Court heard on Thursday.
“The exclusions were about 400 voting delegates,” said advocate Dali Mpofu, who representing a group which wants a court order dissolving the PEC, because it claims the voting conference was tainted.
Mpofu said a figure of 316 had been bandied about, but that the question was how many branches were quorate.
The ANC described “quorate” as 50 percent plus one person, and not one percent, indicating the importance of just one person, said Mpofu.
“Even one person can make a huge difference to whether a meeting is lawful or not,” he said.
He said that none of the “cross section of the cross section” of complaints made to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, and appended to the court papers, was denied by the respondents.
These included allegations of setting up parallel branches and even gangsterism and criminal activities in terms of finding the money to fund the parallel structures. Even voting reruns did not go according to plan.
Mpofu said the case was important because of the history of disenfranchisement of all South Africans.
The issued raised by the group he represented made the case important to all South Africans.
The court heard that the job of the provincial secretary Sibongile Besani mirrored that of Mantashe. He held a paid, CEO-type role, and was in charge of the day-to-day running of the party's affairs.
The complaints were brought to Besani's attention and he wrote to all national officials, including Mantashe, raising the issues.
An ANC NEC task team went to the province to investigate the complaints.
However, in spite of the complaints the provincial conference at which the PEC was elected went ahead.
Besani then “throws his hands up in the air” out of frustration because he got no response, said Mpofu.
He had attended part of the conference, but had begged off ill for the rest of it.
Mpofu said there were complaints about branch audits, that files had been tampered with, the lack of an attendance register for voting meetings, and the deployment of people to disrupt meetings.
The NEC was supposed to have played an active role in voting reruns, “but this didn't happen”, he told the court.
He said the bulk of correspondence was “this is happening, please do something, and nothing was done....
“Besani tries to be polite, but makes it clear that even the NEC deployees were tainted. He puts it very carefully,” said Mpofu.
He said the respondents, who include Free State premier Ace Magashule and the ANC itself, did not dispute the claims of irregularities made in the complaints included in their legal papers.
Mpofu said there was no chance of the matter being settled by meaningful engagement between the parties.
“By implication, we are here now in the highest court in the land. The short answer is no, it does not look like it,” he said.
Mpho Ramakatsa and five others who allege the PEC was improperly constituted have brought the application.
The respondents are Magashule and 25 others, including the national ANC, which reject the claim.
Friday is the deadline for nominations to the ANC's elective conference to be held in Mangaung, in the Free State, in December.
The court squeezed the application in, after two other matters, earlier on Thursday. - Sapa