National Freedom Party battle it out in court over party’s leadership

NFP parliament member Shaik Emam is challenging the legitimacy of NFP leadership. Photo archives.

NFP parliament member Shaik Emam is challenging the legitimacy of NFP leadership. Photo archives.

Published May 29, 2023


Durban — While other parties prepare to launch their election manifestos, National Freedom Party (NFP) factions will battle it out in court over which is the legitimate leadership of the party.

A faction led by MP Shaik Emam is on Monday expected to file papers to appeal against the ruling that granted a faction led by Canaan Mdletshe the right to appeal against a 2021 judgment that nullified the 2019 elective conference.

A spokesperson for the Shaik faction, Teddy Thwala, said their faction believed it had reasonable grounds for appeal since the judge wrongly granted the appeal to Mdletshe’s faction. He said the judge erred to allow the matter to proceed without their legal representation.

Thwala said their understanding was that the matter that sat on May 8 was supposed to be postponed since their legal team had indicated its unavailability on the day, but to their surprise the judge went ahead and gave the order.

As a result of this, Thwala said, they had laid a formal complaint against the judge as well the lawyer of Mdletshe’s faction, because he had said he was going to court to postpone the matter, but asked for the order.

“We are appealing against that decision. For us there is currently no leadership in the party but there is an interim national committee that was formed as a result of the 2021 ruling,” said Thwala.

Justice Department spokesperson Lusanda Ntuli said the office of the judge president in KwaZulu-Natal could confirm receipt of the complaint.

In a statement issued by Mdletshe, he said the NFP was distancing itself from what he called a ruthless and baseless attack on the judiciary.

He said the attack, meted against a Pietermaritzburg High Court judge, was not only an attack on the judge but clearly an attack on the judiciary.

"We have noted with grave concern a letter from individuals purporting to be representing the NFP, challenging a court decision that went against their wishes. While we respect their Constitutional right to express their dissatisfaction against any ruling, we wish to categorically and emphatically state that the actions are tantamount to attacking a very important arm of the state – which is the judiciary.

“We view these vicious attacks in a very serious light. They are barbaric and treasonous. As the members and leaders of the NFP, we respect the courts and their decisions, therefore we distance ourselves from these attacks,” read the statement.

If the application to appeal against the judgment is granted, it would mean that Mdletshe’s faction loses legitimacy again, which will affect the preparation of the general election next year.

The appeal would also affect the preparation of the party conference that is due to take place in July, since the court would have to decide which of the factions had the power to organise it.

The party has been besieged by problems since its late leader, Zanele kaMagwaza, suffered a severe stroke in 2014. The biggest sign of the problems was when the party failed to register for the 2016 local government elections.

Last year the party suffered another major blow when the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) barred it from filling any vacant councillor positions until it had a legitimate leadership.

The IEC also withheld the party’s funds.

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