18 December 2012

South Africa: Constitutional Court Finds Irregularities in ANC Free State Vote

Johannesburg — The Constitutional Court has found there were irregularities in the ANC's preparation for its Free State provincial elective conference (PEC).

"In my view, the appeal did indeed raise a constitutional issue," Judge Zac Yacoob said on Tuesday.

He was giving reasons for the judgment handed down on Friday.

ANC member Mpho Ramakatsa and five others who wanted the PEC dissolved had approached the Constitutional Court, appealing the Bloemfontein High Court's dismissal of the case.

On Friday the court declared the PEC and its resolutions invalid and unlawful.

The majority of judges hearing the case found Ramakatsa and his fellow appellants proved irregularities in the preparation process leading up to the provincial conference.

These amounted to a violation of their right to participate in the activities of the ANC, and a breach of the ANC's constitution as well as its membership audit guidelines.

As a result the majority held that the irregularities nullified the provincial conference.

Judge Johan Froneman, in a dissenting judgment, held that although the matter raised a constitutional issue, it was not in the interest of justice to grant leave to appeal.

In his view the appeal could have been directed to the Full Court of the High Court, or the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Froneman found the appellants failed to prove the ANC had failed to resolved their grievances.

The ANC's 53rd national conference is currently underway in Mangaung.

At the conference, the PECs of each province will formally nominate and elect the party's new leaders.

Ramakatsa and the other appellants had challenged the validity of the PEC in court last month, claiming elections at branch level were irregular and that parallel branches were trying to manipulate the outcome of the party's conference.

The respondents were Free State ANC chairman Ace Magashule, who is also Free State premier, the PEC itself, and the ANC.

During submissions, ANC lawyers said senior ANC leaders had addressed the challengers' complaints. They were represented by advocate Dali Mpofu.

Ramakatsa and his group had asked the High Court in the Free State, and then the Constitutional Court, to review and set aside a decision by the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) to recognise the results of the Free State conference.

They submitted it constituted an administrative action which was reviewable under the provisions of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.

They claimed their constitutional rights had been infringed by the ANC's decision to recognise the PEC, and that their contractual rights as members of the ANC had been infringed.

At court, Ramakatsa's group wore t-shirts bearing the names of candidates they wanted nominated at the Mangaung conference.

They were: Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe for president, Mathews Phosa for deputy, Fikile Mbalula for secretary-general, Thenjiwe Mtintso for deputy secretary-general, Thandi Modise for chairwoman, and Tokyo Sexwale for treasurer general.

The PEC declared invalid by the court had selected President Jacob Zuma for a second term as party president, with no votes for Motlanthe.

The ANC reran its provincial elective conferences in Limpopo and the Western Cape after they collapsed.

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