The African National Congress (ANC) in the Free State might be headed for more court battles if it goes ahead with a provincial conference scheduled for this weekend.
In a letter written by their legal representatives to the provincial task team (PTT), Lehlohonolo Chris Jan, Nomveliso Mapisa and Matshepo Ramakatsa have warned that they would apply to interdict the 8th elective conference if it went ahead on Saturday.
News24 has seen the letter, from lawyer Dexter Selepe to PTT member Tshidi Koloi, in which they ask each PTT member to explain:
- whether they were involved in the decision to hold the conference on the May 18 and 19,
- whether the announcement of the conference was a collective decision or not, and
- the factors taken into consideration when making the decision to go to conference.
The complainants have given the interim provincial structure until close of business on Thursday to respond to the letter before applying to court for an urgent interdict against the conference.
Stripped of powers
The Free State needs to replace its former long-serving chairperson Ace Magashule, who ascended to the secretary general's office at the ANC's watershed national elective congress in December.
His provincial executive committee (PEC) was stripped of its powers just before then, with the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein nullifying a provincial conference which re-elected Magashule as chair.
The province has been embroiled in numerous court challenges, with members successfully questioning processes leading up to both the provincial and national conference of the ANC.
The three claim they only heard about the conference on Monday through social media.
"The announcement of conference as alleged, obviously gives an extremely short notice and is prejudicial to the greater members of the ANC," they complained.
Selepe also said his clients viewed the announcement of the conference as a "flagrant disregard" for the resolutions of the party's 54th national conference.
The PTT is also accused of acting beyond its mandate, with Selepe's clients claiming that it had no powers to extend the already expired 2017 mandate of the party's branches.
Attempts by some members to reject a PTT, which they claim is one sided and made up of the former provincial chairperson's allies have been unsuccessful.
Memorandum of complaint
The ANC had mandated Senzo Mchunu to speak to those who marched to the ANC's headquarters in March to deliver a memorandum of complaint about the structure.
Mona Pule, an ANC member in support of those threatening to go to court, told News24 that the PTT was reconvening the conference with delegates who participated in a nullified process. He said attempts to speak to members of the interim structure have fallen on deaf ears.
"We tried to say to them 12 months have lapsed since the audits were done. The audits after nine months become invalid," said Pule.
He also questioned how the PTT expected a legitimate conference while using delegates who were part of a nullified conference last year.
"We are asking for an audit and for fresh branch general meetings. The conference we can decide on later," he said.
Pule said there were also disputes around 90 branches which were being dealt with by ANC national executive committee member Siyabonga Cwele, outside of the 14 branch general meetings (BGMs) that the court said had to be rerun before fresh elections could be held.
The ANC member told News24 he struggled to understand why a conference would also go ahead before the ANC's national working committee had given a report back to its national executive committee (NEC) on the province's state of readiness.
"Mangaung, which is in the Motheo region, and Xhariep, did not even sit as the NWC (national working committee) was not there. So those meetings did not materialise. Thabo Mofutsanyane said it was not ready at all. In Lejweleputswa and Fezile Dabi, some argued that they were ready while others weren't. But, even if they were, the NWC must still go to the NEC and that hasn't happened yet," argued Pule.
"What is the hurry? Take branches to audits, then all of them to BGMs. After the 2017 audits, people have died, statuses have changed but these guys are adamant," Pule added.
He also questioned the nomination process that branches should have undergone.
"Magashule and [Mosebenzi] Zwane were on the nomination forms when they went to conference. They had one as chair and the other as treasurer. Those two are now in the NEC. What nomination forms have been used for this week's conference?" he asked.
ANC Free State spokesperson Thabo Meeko confirmed that the party had received letters, but insisted that the provincial conference was sitting "as per the national instruction".
"Immediately after Nasrec, when the ANC was demanding to be united, part of the instruction given to us as a province by national structures, is to get out of the courts and for the ANC to start dealing with its own internal issues," said Meeko.
He told News24 that the province had reconvened its 14 branches and that the NWC had assessed the province and as a result it was ready to sit on May 19 in Bloemfontein.
"We don't know what these people want," said Meeko.
"These people are standing in the way of the ANC's attempts to reorganise itself. We can only achieve unity when we go to conference and focus on the election," he continued.
Meeko said it was important for the ANC to go to its conference so it could start addressing the tensions around the leadership contest.
"This gives us an opportunity to lay to rest those tensions, manage the hangover of Nasrec and focus on the elections and oil the election machinery of the ANC," the ANC Free State spokesperson concluded.