ANC NEC meets as more members threaten to take the party to court
18 June 2018
The ANC national executive committee (NEC) is in a last-ditch effort to try and avoid more legal battles as disgruntled members continue to turn to the courts over disputed regional and provincial congresses in various provinces.
The party's highest decision-making body is currently holding a special NEC meeting where court challenges in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Gauteng are expected to come under the spotlight.
As the NEC met on Monday, Eastern Cape members who abandoned the "festival of chairs" elective conference headed to the South Gauteng High Court to challenge the NEC's decision for a "political solution" in the disputed 2017 conference.
Hundreds of members abandoned last year's Eastern Cape conference after delegates threw chairs at each other, leaving several people injured.
The ANC NEC denounced its own internal report by Sbu Ndebele that recommended that the conference be set aside.
While Gauteng has largely avoided court battles, it could also find itself facing a legal challenge as members in the West Rand region threaten to go to court to interdict the regional congress, planned for this weekend.
Allegations of gatekeeping
Disgruntled members are planning to march to St George's Hotel where the NEC is holding its meeting.
The ANC established a national dispute resolution committee (NDRC), led by deputy general secretary Jessie Duarte at its December conference, to avoid legal battles. However, members have said it has failed to intervene, sometimes referring disputes back to regions and provinces, leading to "mayhem".
The party is plagued by allegations of gatekeeping in various provinces as leaders fight for control ahead of the list conferences that determine who stands in line to become a member of the provincial legislature or National Assembly.
"We are giving the NEC an ultimatum, either the NDRC deals with the dispute so that we can have a free and fair conference, or the branches are going to court," William Matsheke, a member of the regional task team in the West Rand, told News24.
The growing concern within the party is that if disputes are not resolved, the list conferences could be in jeopardy. Other members have said the infighting could have an impact on the party's 2019 elections campaign.
In the Free State disgruntled members say their court papers are ready to be served on Luthuli House. Spokesperson Monnapule Ntamo said they were just waiting to see what the NEC meeting decides on their dispute before embarking on that route.
Call for Free State PEC to be disbanded
"Our demand is very simple, we just want to disband that thing, it was not a conference," he said, referring to the disputed conference that elected secretary general Ace Magashule's allies to the provincial executive committee (PEC).
The courts last year nullified the Free State conference that had reappointed Magashule as provincial chair before he was later elected secretary general at Luthuli House. The members have argued that there was no proper audit of branches ahead of the May conference and several branches and thousands of members were no longer in good standing as required by the party's constitution.
"We want that PEC disbanded, and a balanced provincial task team set up so that it can take the province to a conference," Ntamo said.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the party's biggest conference is in limbo after members interdicted the much-awaited provincial conference as it got underway in Empangeni earlier this month.
The province is being managed by a task team after the 2015 conference was nullified by the High Court in Pietermaritzburg.
The ANC has desperately called on members to stop taking it to court, threatening them with expulsion if they do not exhaust internal processes or fail to abide by the outcomes of the committee.
ANC Gauteng race
But members who spoke to News24 said the NDRC had so far been ineffective.
"They keep saying that ANC members must not take the party to court but we cannot allow such thuggery," Matsheke said.
He said in his region's case, they were demanding that people from other regions convene the crucial branch general meetings because members of the task team were conflicted.
He said some dispute meetings continued into the early hours of the morning, with the same regional task team members that branches had complained about sitting in on the meetings.
Gauteng is due to hold a hotly contested conference next month, with at least three people contesting the deputy chairperson position and two others battling it out to become the secretary of the province.