The ANC’s much anticipated elective conference has been dealt another blow following a high court ruling that branch general meetings in four regions were unlawful.
An order handed down by the high court in Bloemfontein stated that the provincial conference, set down for this Friday, may not go ahead until the branches have sat again in a lawful manner.
“It is declared that the following ANC biennial and branch general meetings conducted during the months of August, September, October, and or November in the Free State were irregular, unlawful, unconstitutional and in/or breach of the ANC constitution,” the order reads.
The order has implications for at least 21 wards in four regions namely: Thabo Mofutsanyana, Lejweleputswa, Mangaung and Gariep.
“In holding that the aforesaid meetings were irregular, unlawful, unconstitutional and/or in breach of the ANC constitution the provincial constitution of the ANC, Free State, scheduled for December 1 to 3, will be a nullity and is not to be held until the aforesaid meetings have been held in a lawful manner in accordance with the constitution of the ANC.”
The order follows a provincial general council yesterday, which pronounced its support for former African Union chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma when the ANC goes to its elective conference in just under two weeks. That council could also be nullified given that delegates were selected from the unlawful meetings.
Long-standing Free State chairperson and premier Ace Magashule, a staunch Zuma loyalist, also was given the nod to succeed current secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. Magashule was to be contested at the provincial conference by his deputy Thabo Manyoni.
The mandate of the current provincial executive committee expired earlier this year, compelling the conference to re-elect its leadership ahead of the elective conference of the mother body. It will now be up to the national executive committee – scheduled to sit this weekend – to decide what next for the province. There is a possibility of a provincial task team which could serve as an interim leadership structure which will take the province to the December conference.
Today’s court action was championed by supporters of deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, who is a front runner for the top job alongside Dlamini-Zuma.
This is not the end of the ANC’s legal woes. In another embattled province, KwaZulu-Natal, supporters of Ramaphosa and ousted chairperson Senzo Mchunu will head to court for an execution order.
This followed a ruling by the Pietermaritzburg High Court in September that the 2015 provincial conference, which saw Mchunu removed in favour of current chairperson Sihle Zikalala, was unlawful.
That ruling has been challenged by the provincial executive committee and the mother body. The execution order will seek to suspend the provincial committee, pending the outcome of that appeal. Should that execution order be granted, the group will again push for a provincial task team at the national executive committee sitting.