Advocate Dali Mpofu, acting on behalf of suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, on Thursday severely criticised the legal representatives of the ANC’s top national officials for missing court deadlines for submitting their affidavits to the Johannesburg high court.
Mpofu told the full bench of the high court, ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy secretary-general Jessie and the ANC’s late court papers showed they were treating the court with disrespect and asked the court to impose a cost order for the delay.
He said their delays prejudiced his client’s right to a fair hearing and wants the court to address it in the strongest possible terms.
“We have here a situation where litigants in question have flagrantly disregarded the very well-known rule that in urgent applications it is the applicant who determines the timetable, often unfairly so, but we were told the rules are the rules,” Mpofu said.
He argued that Ramaphosa and Duarte, who have been cited as applicants in the matter along with the ANC, could have approached the court if they felt the timeframes given were unreasonable. Mpofu said instead they did not do so and also failed to provide the court with reasons for missing their deadlines.
The respondents in the case have filed for condonation from the court in terms of their late responses to court papers. Magashule wants a cost order imposed for this.
“What you cannot do is ignore the days that have been given and simply file your affidavit and do nothing. I mean what is that? That is a sense of arrogance and entitlement that cannot be consonance from any litigant and this is what happened in respect of at least the second and third respondents (Duarte and the ANC),” Mpofu said.
The court was meant to hear Magashule’s semi-urgent application on 1 June after he filed court papers in May seeking to overturn his suspension from the governing party as well as to declare the ANC’s contentious step-aside resolution unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.
Magashule also wants the court to confirm his failed attempt to suspend Ramaphosa as ANC president.
The ANC suspended its embattled secretary-general due to his fraud and corruption trial in the Free State related to a R255 million asbestos project when he was premier.
Mpofu argued that if the court treated the respondents with kid gloves for missing the deadline, it would send a clear message to society that the judiciary is biased.
“If our courts are going to give the impression that normal people can be penalised for being one day late, but other people can just treat the court as if it’s their side office, where you just do what you like, then that is something to be deprecated,” he said.
“We certainly think that the court must pronounce itself on this very strongly. As we said in our court papers, it deserves the strongest judicial frown.”
Applications for intervention
Earlier, Judge Jody Kollapen dismissed applications brought by parties who wanted to intervene in the matter.
The court heard at least three applications for intervention before it could proceed with hearing the main application brought by Magashule.
Among the applicants was Zimbabwean-South African businessman and suspended ANC member Mutumwa Dziva Mawere, who was challenging the ANC’s disciplinary processes, among other issues.
Mawere was suspended as a branch secretary in 2012 and launched a legal challenge in 2013.
The high court dismissed the applications with costs, saying they were not urgent.
The ANC opposed all three applications.
The court case continues.