Durban – African National Congress “rebels” in KwaZulu-Natal filed on Tuesday to oppose an appeal made by the ANC Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) to challenge a high court ruling issued last month that effectively rendered the committee powerless.
“(We) filed the papers with the clerk of the high court in Pietermaritzburg to oppose the application to appeal the court ruling as handed down on 12 September 2017,” said Sthembiso Mshengu, spokesperson for the applicants.
The KwaZulu-Natal ANC has been locked in a factional battle over the disputed November 2015 provincial conference at which Sihle Zikalala was elected ANC chairperson for KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), beating opponent and then incumbent Senzo Mchunu.
The applicants in the so-called ‘rebels’ case challenged the legitimacy and outcome of that conference, with the Pietermaritzburg High Court finding in their favour in September, citing irregularities in the time-frames for the event, which it said conflicted with the party’s constitution.
The provincial PEC said last week it would appeal the ruling after receiving a blessing from the mother body’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to do so, allegedly after South African President Jacob Zuma stepped in to lobby for the appeal.
After it was announced that the PEC would appeal, the rebels announced that they had instructed their legal team to oppose the application and “do whatever is legally necessary to enforce the court decision”.
KwaZulu-Natal is Zuma’s home province, where he enjoys considerable support. It is also the ANC’s largest voting block and stands firmly behind Zuma and his chosen predecessor for the post of ANC president, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The NEC’s decision came after protracted speculation that the national body may have sought to disband provincial leadership and set up a task team (interim leadership) to avoid possible ructions going into the party’s leadership race in December, and to unify the divided province.
“We maintain that in our view there is no other court that may arrive at a different conclusion on the matter given the explicit and detailed clarity on the judgement as agreed by the full bench,” said Mshengu.
“We hope that the unlawful and illegal PEC will do the right thing and cease to operate as a legitimate structure and allow the NEC to appoint a task team without any further delays to oversee the organisational processes towards the national conference in December 2017.”
According to the affidavit filed on Tuesday, which is in ANA’s possession, the rebels are challenging the appeal because it did not follow ANC procedure. They contend the application for leave to appeal should have been “recorded and conveyed” by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, and maintain that this was not done.
“[The decision granting leave to appeal should] also be reflected in the minutes of the NEC, which are under the custodianship of the Secretary-General. As made clear in rule 16.6.4, it falls upon the Secretary-General to convey decisions and instructions of the NEC to the provincial executive committees and to ensure that they carry out their duties properly.”
The affidavit continues: “As the provisions of the ANC constitution set out above make clear, any purported attempt to lodge an application for leave to appeal without the authority of the NEC is to commit grave misconduct. As a matter of law, that purported decision to institute proceedings for leave to appeal has no legal effect.”
The rebels are seeking that the 12 September ruling “shall immediately become enforceable and executable, pending the application for leave to appeal and any subsequent appeals either to the Supreme Court of Appeal or to the Constitutional Court,” according to the affidavit.