In a landmark judgment, on Friday the South Gauteng High Court ordered the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) executive committee’s seven members to pay punitive costs out of their own pocket.
This was after Judge Ramarumo Monama rejected an application by the seven to have resolutions of a meeting held by a parallel Nafcoc structure led by Joe Hlongwane on December 6 last year declared invalid and of no force.
That meeting passed a vote of no confidence in the Nafcoc executive led by Lawrence Mavundla as the president. It also elected Hlongwane as the new Nafcoc president and elected a new executive.
The court found the meeting had been legitimately convened and had been representative of Nafcoc’s affiliates.
Judge Monama said Mavundla had ceased to be the president of Nafcoc on December 4, after his three-year term ended, according to the Nafcoc constitution, which the judge said was “very complicated and has some strange provisions”.
Mavundla said on Friday that he and his executive would appeal the court’s judgment.
“In terms of our presentation in court, it was clear we won the case. There is something wrong with the judge,” Mavundla said.
There was loud applause from Hlongwane’s supporters, who filled up the court gallery as Judge Monama awarded the punitive costs.
He said it would be unfair for Nafcoc to pay the costs in a matter between two of its factions. Mavundla and his six colleagues therefore had to pay jointly and severally. This amounts to tens of thousands of rand and may remove them from Nafcoc politics forever.
After the judgment, Hlongwane’s supporters took to the steps at the entrance of the court, singing and ululating.
Hlongwane is a Nafcoc veteran and former president. He is the chairman of Nafhold, the investment arm of the business chamber.
Nafhold has long been a cash cow for whoever was governing Nafcoc.
In 2011, Nafhold divested its shares worth R1.2 billion in Tsogo Investment Holdings.
Judge Monama said on Friday that he wondered if Mavundla’s faction was acting in pursuit of their personal interests or those of Nafcoc.
He said: “If you control the first applicant, you are halfway towards controlling its investment company.”
Hlongwane said he was pleased the issue had been resolved and the new leadership would now be able to proceed with its mission of rebuilding Nafcoc to serve its mandate, which is to facilitate the economic participation of black people, mainly women, the youth and those in the impoverished areas of the country.
He said: “We appeal to all members of Nafcoc to work with us in our mission. From this point onwards, we should focus our efforts on the job at hand, which is to unite Nafcoc to enable it to develop and grow black businesses that contribute to the economy of our country. We owe it to our members, the thousands of men and women who look up to Nafcoc for leadership.”
Before the December 6 meeting, Mavundla’s faction unsuccessfully applied for an interdict to stop it from taking place. Instead, Judge Phineas Mojapelo allowed it but ordered its resolutions suspended until a full hearing on January 29.
The Hlongwane faction requisitioned a Nafcoc council meeting on November 6 for December 6 to kick out the incumbent office bearers and council, and elect new ones.
The council is the supreme decision-making body of the chamber after conference.
Mavundla, who by the organisation’s constitution was only entitled to decide the time and place of the council meeting, did not convene it.
But the Hlongwane faction argued that Mavundla’s three-year term of office had expired two days before the requisition of the meeting and that he was therefore no longer president.
On the other hand, the Nafcoc constitution stipulates that the other office bearers are elected for a term of four years.
This led Judge Monama to interject: “The constitution needs brushing up.”
“The more you read this constitution, the more you get horrified,” he said later, to giggles from Hlongwane’s faction.
Gilbert Mosene, an incumbent secretary general of Nafcoc and part of the Mavundla faction, said in his affidavit that the Hlongwane faction was known as the “rebels” by the Mavundla faction, were not members of Nafcoc and therefore could not convene a valid Nafcoc meeting.