Members of ANC KZN PEC, from left: KZN Premier Willies Mchunu, party chairperson Sihle Zikalala, Super Zuma, the ANC provincial secretary-general, and Mluleki Ndobe, deputy provincial secretary-general, singing at the closing of the lekgotla yesterday at Coastlands Hotel in South Beach, Durban.

Durban - The African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal has claimed that the case presented by a faction within the party wanting a provincial elective conference declared illegal was “vague and embarrassing”.

The provincial party is locked in a factional battle that is playing itself out in the Pietermaritzburg High Court this week over the legitimacy of a provincial elective conference held in November 2015 where Sihle Zikalala was elected chairman, beating opponent and then incumbent Senzo Mchunu.

The applicants - believed to be aligned with Mchunu, although he denies any involvement - have argued that not only was it illegal for the election to have taken place, but that there were a series of irregularities, including an accusation that the result was fixed. 

The applicants have argued that the election be set aside and a rerun held.

Acting for the KZN ANC, advocate Greg Harpur SC, said the case presented by the applicants was weak and had changed since they originally lodged their complaint with the court in mid 2016. 

“In the analysis of their case, we have throughout complained that it is vague and embarrassing in many respects. They started off with an incomplete and partially illegible set of documents which took us some time to unravel.”

Harpur said when the applicants “started their case” they had a deficiency in documents.

“The present applicants are four [people]. The current membership is 162,480. The four represents 0.002% who are attempting to set aside an election by bringing an argument 21 months after the conference.

"With one exception, none of applicants are members of the branches of which they complain and none of them have the authority of the branch executives who would be entitled to complain if there was a valid complaint.”

The ANC has 870 branches in KwaZulu-Natal. 

Harpur said individual members had a right to vote at branch level. “They elect delegates who act on their behalf. No one objected to the [elective conference] and there was a result. It is not uncommon when one faction in a political movement loses and tries to challenge the outcome.”

He said the applicants were simply trying to have the decision to allow the elective conference go-ahead set aside.

The party’s senior body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), gave the elective conference the green light, said Harpur. He admitted that the party’s Secretary General Gwede Mantashe had directed a letter to the provincial ANC structure to halt the election months earlier, but then rescinded this decision after a follow-up meeting.

The applicant’s lawyer, Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, had earlier argued that that election was held six months early and was thus illegal. He said according to the ANC’s own constitution, provincial elective conferences must be held every four years and if any earlier they needed the support of a third of all branches.

However Harpur said the four-year term was not “an inflexible number”. He said instead it should be understood that at least one election should be held every four years.

The matter continues on Thursday.