Former North West ANC chairperson and premier Supra Mahumapelo’s move back to the ANC provincial office was met with “a lot of resistance” – because of Luthuli House’s plans to appeal this week’s court order to reinstate him.
On Friday, the axed North West premier was ready to take back the keys to his ANC provincial office, but was unable to do so.
Mahumapelo’s allies told City Press that he faced overwhelming resistance to his return – including from the interim task team which replaced his provincial executive committee (PEC), from those in the office of current premier Job Mokgoro and from the ANC’s national executive.
“But the judgment has been handed down and the ANC, having fought for justice, should surely comply with the court order,” said a member of Mahumapelo’s reinstated PEC.
A national rapid response team from Luthuli House is set to descend on the North West capital, Mahikeng, today as part of a mission to broker a truce between the warring factions and get the election campaign back on track.
The meeting is expected to be “difficult”, say insiders, as it marks the first time that Mahumapelo and his allies sit around the table with the interim task team that took over the running of the party in the province when the national executive committee (NEC) dissolved Mahumapelo’s PEC in April last year.
All sides are concerned about a real risk that the ANC could lose power in the province in the upcoming May 8 general election, because of protracted political instability caused by factions. This has severely affected the running of both provincial and local government.
Read: High court orders that the North West PEC be reinstated within two days
A Mahumapelo ally said the ANC’s decision to appeal the judgment was not surprising because Luthuli House wanted to “try to drag this matter past the elections and assume that we will let it go by then”.
“But we are resolute,” added the ally. “We have made it clear what we want, and we will not stop because of a lengthy court challenge.
“The simple answer would be for Luthuli House to just abide by the court ruling, but we all know it will not be as simple as that.”
The ally said that already, “a lot of damage has been done and too many animosities created, so we cannot suddenly forget what has been said and done”.
A mature option would have been to try to work together, he said, adding: “But how do you do that with someone who has already shown you that they wish for your downfall?”
Mahumapelo was also banking on sympathisers in the NEC to persuade the party to accept the court judgment and move on, said another of his close allies.
Mahumapelo is now determined to come back, and this week’s court victory, which declared the appointment of the interim task team unlawful, has forced Luthuli House back to the negotiating table.
“Our task, as we take back the reins, is to try to unite these divided individuals as they also need to be part of the groundwork that will ensure the ANC wins the upcoming elections,” said Mahumapelo outside the high court in Johannesburg this week, after his successful legal bid.
Mahumapelo has long rejected the option to share power with the task team; he withdrew from the structure just after it was appointed last year.
Although the former premier would have expected the task team to be on the back foot, one of its members said the court ruling had no consequences as it was going to be challenged.
Also, the interim leaders were happy to leave the matter as a fight between Mahumapelo and Luthuli House, the task team member said.
“Luthuli House decided to appeal; it was not our call, so the matter is for the NEC to decide. Whichever position we develop, it would not matter.”
But another task team insider was “happy” with the judgment, saying the task team had behaved in a “triumphalist” way after taking over, and had rejected any suggestions to reach out to Mahumapelo in line with their terms of reference to unite ANC structures in the province.
“What would be the basis of the appeal and what are the prospects of success? The ANC cannot use the appeal process to buy time. Our courts are not a playground for the ANC to parade its differences,” the insider said.
The insider preferred a political solution that would see Mahumapelo reinstated, the PEC beefed up to include task team members, and a new provincial election list process convened.
ANC head of presidency Zizi Kodwa said the court ruling had provided the party with an opportunity to engage all the factions.
“We must not elevate individuals. We are talking to all individuals, including Mahumapelo, through the office of the secretary-general,” Kodwa told City Press on Friday.
“We are going to meet with both the former executive and the task team as part of fostering unity in the organisation,” he said, adding that the party wanted to ensure that it retained an overwhelming majority after the election.
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