ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and President Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS, MIKE HUTCHINGS
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and President Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS, MIKE HUTCHINGS

Although not cited as respondents‚ President Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe were drawn into a courtroom drama that played out in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Wednesday.

There‚ in the KwaZulu-Natal administrative capital‚ ANC "rebel" branches sought to nullify the party’s "rigged" 2015 provincial conference.

Adv Tembeka Ngcukaitobi‚ who is representing the aggrieved branches‚ called out every member of the ruling party’s "top six"‚ saying they were complicit in the alleged wrongdoing that saw Sihle Zikalala and his slate trounce that of Senzo Mchunu and his supporters at the 2015 elective conference.

Mchunu‚ who was ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairman and premier at the time‚ was resoundingly beaten by Zikalala‚ who is now the economic development MEC.

"My clients met with President Jacob Zuma on December 12 2015‚ in Durban. He undertook to refer the matter to the national executive committee (NEC) and respond to the applicants in five days. However‚ he never fulfilled the undertaking‚" said Ngcukaitobi, adding that the applicants addressed Mantashe‚ in writing‚ in April 2016 for further relief.

"For five months they waited for Zuma‚ and that is why they wrote to the ANC secretary-general ... He told the complainants that he shouldn’t be addressed through lawyers as the complainants had used their lawyers to write to him‚" he said.

Ngcukaitobi said his clients had done a responsible thing by approaching Zuma and Mantashe. If they had written to Mantashe in January 2016, he said, they would have been accused of rushing things while the leadership was "still seized" with the matter and because Zuma had not returned with answers.

He said the passage of time meant the applicants had no choice but to seek relief from the court.

According to Ngcukaitobi, the NEC was approached because it was the ANC’s the biggest decision-making body between conferences and had the power to either call for fresh elections or declare the conference unlawful. "Zuma and Mantashe did not create the impression that they were interested — but the opposite‚" he said.

Another applicant’s lawyer‚ Adv Griffiths Madonsela‚ touched on the issue of a tweet that was sent out on November 7 2015‚ while the voting was under way. The tweet‚ sent from the party’s official @KZNANC account‚ allegedly stated that Mchunu had garnered 675 votes. "And, indeed, the next day ,when the results came out, it emerged that Mchunu had received 675 votes. No matter how prophetic you can be‚ no one can predict with such precision while the voting‚ which was through a secret ballot‚ was under way and counting had not been done."

Ngcukaitobi said the applicants had also not been provided with the voters’ roll by the respondents.

The entire top five of the party’s KwaZulu-Natal structures — including chairperson Zikalala‚ his deputy Willies Mchunu‚ secretary Super Zuma‚ his deputy Mluleki Ndobe, and treasurer Nomusa Dube-Ncube — attended the trial.

After a lunch break‚ the ANC’s lawyer‚ Adv Greg Harper‚ argued that the complainants had allowed the conference to proceed and did not object: "They did not even challenge the results after they came out, and only did so much later."

Meanwhile‚ outside‚ supporters of the two factions chanted and sang — and had to be kept apart by police. A number of streets in the Pietermaritzburg CBD were closed as crowds were brought in by bus.

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