The African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal said its mother body supports its decision to appeal a Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling made last month that declared its 2015 provincial conference unlawful and invalid.
“The ANC National Executive Committee has taken a decision to support and join the ANC KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Executive Committee’s appeal against the PMB High Court judgment,” provincial secretary Super Zuma said at a press briefing in Durban on Tuesday.
Zuma said the decision was taken after a day-long discussion between PEC and national officials, which he described as “extensive and candid”.
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 KZN chairman, 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 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.
Provincial leadership sought leave to appeal last week but said the process would only continue if they received the blessing of the NEC.
After it was announced that the PEC would appeal, the so-called rebels announced that they had instructed their legal team to oppose the application and “do whatever is legally necessary to enforce the court decision”.
“It is our collective considered view that the judgment contains wider implications and has a potential to distort and weaken the authority of the PEC and NEC which are the supreme structures of organization with the authority to lead and make decisions in between conferences,” said Zuma.
He said the NEC continued to recognise the existence of the PEC as elected at the contentious conference. There was no discussion around a re-run of the conference, he said, and the court’s judgment had been “suspended” until the outcome of the appeals’ process. “It is clear there is a PEC. The status quo remains,” he said.
“We all know now that according to the judgment, it is clear that there was no material irregularities,” he said, adding that the 2015 conference was thus a true reflection of the will of delegates.
The province was “committed” to unity, he said, and deputy provincial chairman Willies Mchunu (also KZN premier) had been tasked with unifying the party.
Zuma confirmed that chairman Zikalala had met with Mike Mabuyakhulu, who represented the so-called rebel members, on Monday, but would not be drawn on what was discussed, saying it was part of “an internal process”.
Spokesperson for the so-called rebels, Sthembiso Mshenu, told African News Agency on Tuesday morning that discussions between Zikalala and Mabuyakhulu had included preliminaries on setting up of a provincial task team. “But first we must void the illegal provincial executive committee,” he said.
Speaking to ANA again after the ANC media briefing, Mshenu said: “We can’t control their ambitions,” when told that the PEC would go ahead with its appeal.
Regarding Zuma’s statement that the verdict was “suspended”, Mshenu said: “There is no court that has suspended the verdict of 12 September. The mere appeal does not equal the suspension of the order. That is common sense”.