ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe was warned in April that the party would face legal action if it failed to address grievances over the party’s provincial conference, which saw the KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu ousted as provincial leader.
While ANC provincial leaders have questioned the timing over the application brought last Friday that seeks to have any resolutions from the conference set aside as unlawful and invalid, they have refused to comment on the application until after the local government elections next Wednesday.
The letter, a copy of which is in ANA’s possession, was sent to Mantashe on April 28 by a Durban-based attorney who has since distanced himself from the action because of concerns over his safety.
Sihle Zikalala, the man who replaced Mchunu as party chairman, and current KwaZulu-Natal premier, Willies Mchunu, are among the respondents, as are other members of the executive.
Party members Lawrence Dube, Lindiwe Buthelezi, Martin Mzangwa, Mzweni Ngcobo and Sibahle Zikalala lodged the notice of application, without affidavits, in Pietermaritzburg’s high court on July 22.
The letter — sent on behalf of the same applicants — states that the ANC’s eThekwini branches lodged various disputes and objections with Luthuli House late last year in relation to the ANC’s provincial congress.
“Our clients are, therefore, left in the invidious position of having no determination of their objections / grievances notwithstanding that a substantial period of time has elapsed since the lodging of the same,” the letter reads.
“We respectfully draw to your attention the fact that a failure to make a decision can, as a matter of law, be construed as a refusal or rejection of the grievance or objection. We therefore request that the national executive committee give consideration to the grievances and objections and advise us of the outcome thereof by 31 May 2016. Failure to do so will result in our clients considering the same to have been refused or rejected and will take such further steps as they are advised.”
Mantashe confirmed in June that he had received the letter and replied to it.
“We don’t have structures in the ANC called attorney. There is no such structure in the ANC. I replied to the letter and said I can’t deal with branches through an attorney,” he said at the time.
According to a party member, who spoke on condition of anonymity and who has been involved in the legal action behind the scenes, it is “do or die” for the applicants and those encouraging them to proceed with the case.
He said that while Mchunu could get an ambassadorial post or go into business, it was not the same for the councillors.
“If they lose their councillor positions because of being on the wrong side, they don’t eat,” he said.
The application was not made by “a few disgruntled people”, said the source.
“Individual branches were mandated by their branch executive committees to take this further. It was all done at a regional level.”
The provincial conference took place in Pietermaritzburg between 6 and 8 November last year and the Electoral Commission of South Africa deemed the election of office bearers to be free and fair.
Days before the conference, Mantashe urged that the provincial conference be postponed until the repeatedly disrupted and postponed eThekwini regional elective conference had been held.
In a letter sent to Zikalala less than two weeks before the conference was set to take place, Mantashe said: “Having consulted with the national officials, we are advising and directing the PEC (provincial executive committee) to postpone the provincial conference to a date beyond the eThekwini region. Cost is not compelling enough an argument for holding a provincial conference with eThekwini [Region] not in good standing. It will push the province into a wave of conspiracy theories about the intention.”
Mantashe asked Zikalala, who was then provincial secretary, to be provide a new date. However, the conference, which was addressed by President Jacob Zuma, went ahead nevertheless.
In his letter, Mantashe questioned the role of the ANC Youth League in the processes leading up to the provincial conference.
“Kindly note that a complaint has been received about the deployment of ANCYL deployees to run [branch general meetings]. This is seen as shifting the responsibility of the [provincial executive committee] and the various [regional executive committees] to a league of the ANC. Kindly correct this if and deal with it if it is a perception.”
When asked why a directive from Luthuli House was defied, Mantashe said, “I don’t know that there was defiance … we work through the structures of the ANC. The ANC takes decisions in structures and will change decisions in structures”.
At a press conference on Thursday about the local government elections, Zikalala declined to speak about the impending court action, saying: “This briefing is about us, not about people who are disgruntled.”
ANC provincial spokesman Mdumiseni Ntuli confirmed that Zikalala was served papers on Wednesday.
“We must respond during August and we anticipate meeting in court in September,” he said.
He confirmed that the party’s legal team had already started working on a response to the application.
Ntuli said that the issue would be tabled in the provincial executive committee’s meeting after the elections, but a special meeting would not be called.
He also confirmed that those who had brought the action were ANC councillors or were candidates to be councillors.
– African News Agency (ANA)