Court sets aside ANC’s Ekurhuleni regional conference after branches disqualified
The high court has found that the ANC’s 2022 Ekurhuleni regional conference was illegitimate and its outcomes must be set aside. Gauteng Provincial Secretary Thembinkosi ‘TK’ Nciza was at the centre of the row.
The Johannesburg High Court has ruled that the governing party’s Ekurhuleni regional conference, which was marred by violence and internal squabbles, should be set aside.
The applicants in the case are members of the ANC’s Ekurhuleni region: Jabulani Derrick Sithole, Rethabile Samson Lukhele, Dolly Molly Nkosi, Bekezeli Phillip Thwala, Tshidiso Joseph Saul, Moses Lekholo Moreko, Jean Stato and Romeo Mokoni.
They contended that the disqualification of several branches from participating in the conference was procedurally unfair and irregular.
“The Eighth Regional Conference of the Ekurhuleni Region of the African National Congress, held at the Indaba Hotel in Fourways on 27 to 29 May 2022, and all decisions, resolutions and election results emanating from the Conference are set aside. The first respondent (the ANC) is to pay the costs of the application,” said Judge Denise Fisher in her ruling on Monday.
The conference caused discord in the party’s ranks. On the eve of the ANC’s Gauteng provincial conference, held almost two months later, the party’s National Executive Committee met and held a protracted debate over the Ekurhuleni conundrum.
The antagonist – TK Nciza
The judgment stated that it could not seriously be disputed that then regional co-ordinator Thembinkosi “TK” Nciza was perceived as a “controversial, powerful and ambitious figure”.
“Nciza is an important antagonist in this case. He was appointed the co-ordinator of the [Regionial Task Team] and a member of the Regional Dispute Resolution Committee (RDRC) under the guidelines and he was also standing for election at the Conference for the position of regional secretary and at the Provincial Conference as Provincial Secretary.
“There had been complaints from provincial office bearers that the RDRC was constituted by members of a faction which included Nciza and that it was thus a biased appeal structure,” the judgment reads.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘War Zone’: Former Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina’s political future hangs on 19 ‘quarantined votes’
It further states that Nciza might have meddled in the verification process of branches for his own benefit. After being elected regional secretary, he was then elected as the provincial secretary at the party’s Gauteng conference in June 2022.
In the lead-up to the Ekurhuleni forum, the National Organising Committee, which was led by senior ANC member Nomvula Mokonyane, produced a verification of membership report which said 112 branches existed in the Ekurhuleni region. According to the report, nine branches had been disqualified and four other branches had not been verified.
The judgment sets out that the five branches in issue in the case before the court were verified in this initial audit report by the party’s national office as being in good standing. One branch was later disqualified, but the other four were verified.
At this stage, before Nciza involved himself in the verification process, the members of those four branches were regarded as paid up and no complaints were pending on irregularity at the branch meetings.
“As far as the other four branches were concerned this standing was to change as a result of the direct intervention of Nciza,” the judgment states.
Nciza wrote to the office of the ANC secretary-general raising concerns about a number of branches that eventually led to their disqualification from the conference.
The court found that the ANC had failed “to give any detail as to the process followed in relation to the disqualifications”.
“It is merely stated that these disqualifications happened ‘at a meeting’. This shows a failure on the part of the ANC to appreciate and deal with the fact that, prime facie, such disqualification did not happen in accordance with the procedure in the guidelines and the constitution.”
The judgment also noted that while Nciza claimed to be writing on behalf of the regional task team, other task team members indicated his actions were the “machinations of Nciza alone”.
Results never finalised
The conference was the first where the ANC introduced the concept of quarantine votes, which meant that a number of branches could participate in the conference, but their votes would not be counted when electing new leadership. Those quarantined votes turned out to have the potential to swing the results.
According to preliminary results, Mzwandile Masina received 163 votes in the race for chairperson while Nkosindiphile Xhakaza won 151. Jongizizwe Dlabathi was elected as the deputy chair, Thembinkosi Nciza as the secretary and Moipone Mhlongo the deputy secretary. The treasurer position went to Sello Skhokho.
But these results were only preliminary as the party was expected to resolve disputes surrounding the impact of the 19 quarantined branches and then release the final results.
The final results were never released and following the judgment, the region will now have to reconvene its conference.
The party was due to hold a general council in May to fill Masina’s position in Ekurhuleni as he was elected to the ANC’s National Executive Committee at the governing party’s 55th national conference in December.
The region was also supposed to elect a secretary following Nciza’s election as provincial secretary. DM