ANC members backing the "rebels" who took the provincial ANC leadership to court celebrate outside the High Court in Pietermaritzburg after the decision to annul the 2015 ANC provincial elective conference. 
Picture: S’bonelo Ngcobo/ANA

Durban - The ANC leadership in KwaZulu-Natal was on Wednesday night scrambling for responses to the Pietermaritzburg High Court judgment which has effectively disbanded the provincial leadership structure.

The judgment, written by Judge Piet Koen, with judges Mahendra Chetty and Sharmaine Balton concurring, ruled that the 2015 conference and decisions taken at it were “unlawful and void”.

The crux of the judgment was that the ANC’s constitution regarding the time periods in which an elective conference should be held should be interpreted to mean that a provincial elective conference be held every four years. By that interpretation, the conference should have been held last year not 2015 and was therefore unlawful.

The court also found that while some valid issues were raised regarding irregularities, this would not have had a significant effect on the outcome of the conference.

The provincial executive committee (PEC) whose legitimacy has been questioned, held an emergency meeting at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium last night to analysethe ramifications of the court decision.

Shortly after the judgment was handed down, ANC spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli, who is also a member of the PEC, said only the party’s national executive committee (NEC) could disband the structure.

While saying the party will appeal against the decision, the possibility of a fresh election was not lost on Ntuli who said: “If the NEC were to say go back to the provincial conference again we are quite ready and prepared to do that whether today, tomorrow, next week or next year”.

The KZN chairperson of the ANC Youth League, Kwazi Mshengu, who was also at court, echoed similar sentiments.

“The ANC leadership is still there, it is led by Comrade Sihle Zikalala. Even if the conference were to be held tomorrow we are convinced that we will have the same results as we had in 2015.”

Political analyst Bheki Mngomezulu said the implication of the judgment was that the provincial executive committee did not exist. “The court decided that the election which resulted in them getting their positions is unlawful,” he said.

Mngomezulu said the PEC could use the appeal to buy more time.

ANC MPL in the provincial legislature Jomo Sibiya, who is one of the people who supported the application to nullify the 2015 conference, said the final decision rests with the ANC NEC and he was confident that the national leadership would now appoint a task team to run the province.

But Ntuli was confident that the ANC could successfully appeal against the judgment.

“One of the issues that came before the court was the constitutionality of the conference. It was less about whether or not there were irregularities In our view that is the matter that cannot be settled at the level of the high court, it requires us to go to the Supreme Court of Appeal,” said Ntuli.

The judgment could have serious repercussions for government as the applicants said they want to see some of the decisions taken by the “illegitimate PEC” revoked. These would include the appointment of mayors and deployments to the provincial government.

“Personally, I think all the decisions that were taken should be reversed, including the removal of Senzo (Mchunu),” said Lawrence Dube, one of the applicants.

He later conceded that it would be practically impossible to reverse every decision of the PEC, saying that “rationality will have to come to play”.

Ntuli, however, downplayed this, saying it was not the decisions of the PEC that were being challenged in court.

Sibiya, said the political uncertainty brought about by the judgment was bound to affect the government.

“It is up to us to find one another on these issues. The issue of government and deployments is one that should be dealt with. However, this is not about removing people from positions,” he said.

Former premier Senzo Mchunu told eNCA on Wednesday that the court ruling had reaffirmed branches of their power over the ANC.

“The judgment means the ANC is safer in the hands of the branches,” he said.

Mchunu called for a review of the decision to replace him with ANC provincial deputy chairman Willies Mchunu.

“I made a request to the ANC that, when I was removed, the accusations that I have since received in writing levelled against me needed to be reviewed in a platform where I will get an opportunity to defend myself,” he said.

National spokesperson of the ANC Zizi Kodwa said the party would study the judgment and “interact with structures on the political ramifications”. - Additional reporting by Nosipho Mngoma

The Mercury