ANC members react to the news that a court challenge to stop the party's KwaZulu-Natal elective conference conference was granted in the Pietermartizburg High court. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN
ANC members react to the news that a court challenge to stop the party's KwaZulu-Natal elective conference conference was granted in the Pietermartizburg High court. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN

The ANC has been told that it may not hold its controversy-riddled KwaZulu-Natal provincial elective conference, scheduled to take place this weekend. An 11th-hour court challenge to stop the conference was granted in the Pietermartizburg High court on Friday.

Disgruntled ANC members — who claim to represent 44 branches out of 88 in the troubled Moses Mabhida region — rushed to court on Friday afternoon to apply for an urgent interdict to stop the three-day conference from going ahead.

By Friday afternoon, hundreds of delegates had already started streaming into the University of Zululand‚ after the party's national executive committee (NEC) announced at the end of May that it “had gone beyond the minimum requirements” prescribed in its constitution for the provincial elective conference to proceed. Absent, however, from Zululand, was ANC provincial task-team co-ordinator Sihle Zikala — who has been tipped to be chairman of the party in the province if the unity slate prevailed — who was at the High Court. He was accompanied by eThekwini mayor and regional chair Zandile Gumede.

Several ANC branches objected to the announcement of the dates for the provincial elective conference, including Moses Mabhida region members, who launched the legal application on Friday. The challenge was defended by the ANC and members of the provincial task-team, who were cited as respondents in the matter.

ANC members celebrate after the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday granted an interdict to to stop the party's provincial elective conference. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN
ANC members celebrate after the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday granted an interdict to to stop the party's provincial elective conference. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN

After standing down the matter for a short while, Judge Jacqueline Henriques granted the interdict to stop the party from proceeding with the conference, saying that if the elective process was tainted, the court should err on the sound of caution.

During oral arguments, Advocate Cameron Hunt SC for the six applicants said that if the conference went ahead without remedy, it would be in breach of the ANC’s own constitution. In papers before the court, he pointed out that the provincial elective conference did not have the required number of voting delegates to proceed. “It is unlawful for the conference [to go ahead] with a sub-minimum number of voting delegates. That is, of course, ignoring the fact that, on evidence, some of the delegates at the conference were elected at branch general meetings, which were not properly convened.”

He argued that the ANC still had seven weeks to hold a properly constituted provincial elective conference. “Instead, the respondents are forging ahead, doing damage to the entire organisation. Do they want a third re-run of this conference?”

Hunt added that if their application was unsuccessful, the party in the province would be run by people imposed on ANC members, instead of people elected to do so.

Advocate Vinay Gajoo for the ANC and the other respondents argued that they had less than half an hour to read papers served on them for the application. He alleged that the applicants had known of the dates of the provincial elective conference since May 29 and their application amounted to an ambush. “It has simply been impossible to consult with our clients on these papers and all of the submissions that have been placed before this court.”

Moses Mabhida, which has been identified as problematic by the ANC, as well as Harry Gwala, eThekwini and the Lower South Coast regions, have been deeply divided between pro-President Cyril Ramaphosa members and those who supported former president Jacob Zuma ahead of the party’s national elective conference in Johannesburg in December.

The Moses Mabhida region, which is made up of Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas, is the third largest in the province after eThekwini and Musa Dladla in Richards Bay. The weekend’s conference is a re-run of the disputed elective conference held in November 2015. The result of that event was declared null and void by the Pietermaritzburg High Court after its outcome was challenged by the so-called ANC rebels.

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