Opposition faction leaders of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) have lost their bid to appeal a high court ruling ordering the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to recognise Luthando Mbinda as the party’s leader ahead of the upcoming local government elections.
The dispute about the true leadership of the PAC has been the subject of numerous court battles, with opposition faction leaders Letlapa Mphahlele and Alton Mphethi also laying claim to the party’s leadership.
The Mbinda faction turned to the courts for relief after the IEC in June last year suspended public funding to the party until its leadership struggle had been resolved.
The party claimed it was suspended from participating in the elections, but the IEC denied this, saying the party’s leadership dispute had placed it in the invidious position of not knowing who led the organisation and having to referee the costly battle between the warring factions. Mphahlele was, in 2013, expelled as president of the PAC, but obtained a court order to restore his status.
The PAC, led by Mbinda, in October last year successfully appealed against the ruling before a full bench of the North Gauteng High Court, which upheld Mphahlele’s suspension.
In April, Judge Tati Makgoka ruled that, as there was no pending appeal against the full bench ruling, Mphahlele’s suspension remained in place and he ordered the IEC to recognise Mbinda as the party’s leader.
Mphahlele and Mphethi applied for leave to appeal against the ruling, but Judge Makgoka this week dismissed their bid. Mphahlele, who claimed he had since been re-elected as party leader, argued that the court had erred in preferring one faction over the others. However, Makgokand the PAC was entitled to organise its affairs on the basis of finality of the full court’s judgment, which restored its decision to expel Mphahlelea. The judge said Mphahlele remained expelled from the party.
“Whether the full court came to its conclusion on a technical basis is of no moment,” said Makgoka.
“What is important is the effect of that judgment. Mr Mphahlele is not entitled to simply ignore that decision because he considers it wrong or invalid.”
The judge previously stressed that his ruling should not be understood to mean that the Mbinda faction was the legitimate one for all intents and purposes, but only for purposes of the upcoming local government elections.