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Top tier leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal have hit back at the National Executive Committee (NEC) saying it does not have a say in its choice to appeal a high court decision that declared its provincial conference unlawful.
“We do not understand why the NEC is saying anything about this now when in court papers it is clear that the applicants are versing the provincial executive committee of KZN and not the NEC,” ANC Youth League provincial chairperson Kwazi Mshengu said on Wednesday.
Mshengu was hitting back at ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa who said the decision would have to be made by the party's national leadership.
Kodwa said at the time that the KZN PEC should "allow national space to deal with the issue" in conjunction with the national committee.
"Our lawyers are still going through the court judgment. We have a responsibility to appreciate the political ramifications, but we have not yet met with the provincial leadership," Kodwa said.
ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe also said the NEC would have to take a decision.
Mshengu said that the province and its PEC was not “daring the NEC”.
“We are engaging on the matter. The SG expressed a view. Our view is that NEC should have been part of this matter from the beginning. Why make us battle with this and then say now we must deal?"
Mshengu said that the NEC held a double standard.
“We are saying there is a level of unfairness. We will never defy the NEC. It has never been done in the movement. If the NEC decides we are going to conference, we will comply. We are not doing this thing for ourselves but the organisation.”
Mshengu said that even though the PEC felt it could “win a provincial conference tomorrow” it needed to go to court to retain powers of the executive.
“We decided to appeal so we avoid sitting with a court judgment that will set bad precedence for the ANC. If we live with this judgment it will strip the PEC of its powers. It means the PEC would not be able to take any executive decisions. If we do not appeal we would not be able to make any proper political decisions.”
The provincial leadership demonstrated a show of power with various regional branches including the ANC Women’s League, Youth League and Veterans League calling a press conference to defend the PEC on Wednesday, a day following the high court judgment.
Mshengu said that the court judgment only found that the conference was held too early and not that any processes were flawed.
“Our margins were too high to lose that conference. We won by a margin that was more than 100 votes. The court only said that we held the conference too early.”
PEC will retain powers during appeal
According to Mshengu, the PEC would remain in power during the appeals process.
“The status of the PEC does not change. The law allows us to launch an appeal within 15 days. Once we have done so, the decision of the High Court gets suspended until outcomes of the appeal. Until the verdict of the appeal, the PEC will have the same powers before the high court judgment.”
Mshengu said that even the disciplinary of processes for outspoken parliamentarian Makhosi Khoza would take place.
“This will be happening on Sunday. The PEC will continue with its processes.”
Why did Senzo Mchunu participate in conference?
Mshengu also questioned why former premier Senzo Mchunu participated in the contested conference.
“Senzo made the call for an early conference. Some of us who were in that PEC questioned what is this rush. This rush was pushed so hard we all said okay, let’s go to the conference. Now that it does not favour them, it becomes everyone’s problem in the organisation.”
He added, “We wonder if the outcomes of [the] conference favoured them, would they have said they were elected by an illegitimate process? They availed themselves for the conference. We are dealing with comrades who were aggrieved with outcomes.”
ANC members challenged the results of the conference that saw incumbent chairperson Sihle Zikalala replacing former premier Senzo Mchunu.
ANC councillor Lawrence Dube and four others brought the court case against the ANC in May 2016. Judgment was reserved at the last sitting.
The high profiled case has seen thousands turn up to support the warring factions in the province.
During the conference Zikalala received 780 votes, while Mchunu received 675 votes, in a process where 1 459 delegates voted.
In the wake of the conference, and Mchunu's ousting, disgruntled members, believed to be his supporters, launched appeals demanding that the conference be nullified, as they believed it had been rigged.