IFP elections postponed for fear of defeat, court hears

2010-07-20 14:26

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leaders avoided holding an elective conference because they were aware they would be ousted from power if it took place, according to court documents.

This is contained in the high court application by four expelled IFP members who are challenging the legality of the current leadership.

Wiseman Mcoyi, Nhlanhla Khawula, Thokozani Zulu and Ntuthuko Gumede were seeking an order to remove the IFP national council and national executive committee from office.

They said the term of office for the top five party officials including IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi had expired in June last year.

They want the court to direct the IFP to hold an elective conference which had been postponed several times since its originally scheduled date, July 24 2009.

On Sunday, the party announced that the much-awaited elective conference would no longer take place on July 23 because it needed to conclude a disciplinary inquiry into its national chairperson, Zanele Magwaza-Msibi.

She was accused of failing to rebuke her “divisive backers”.

The court papers mention two factions in the IFP. The one supports those who, at present, purport to be in office and in charge of the party.

The second faction is the Friends of Zanele Magwaza-Msibi which wants the IFP national chairperson to stand for the party’s presidency position.

The application reads: “All applicants support Zanele Magwaza-Msibi. We hope she will be elected as the next president and leader of the respondent (IFP).”

The applicants said although Magwaza-Msibi remained in office she had been largely marginalised and had no meaningful say in the affairs of the party.

Those in power had a high-handed and autocratic approach and had attempted to expel Magwaza-Msibi’s backers, they said.

The applicants argued that the national council cannot find protection in clause 3.6 of the IFP constitution.

Clause 3.6 states that any elected committee/officer of the party shall remain in office for a reasonable period after the expiry of their term to allow for the next election to take place.

They argue that the national council is neither an elected committee nor an officer of the party.

They have submitted that the national executive committee, as the executive arm of the national council, could not validly exist once the national council ceased to exist.

Its existence depended on the valid and lawful existence of the national council.

The lawyers for the IFP and the applicants briefly appeared in the Pietermaritzburg High Court today and then had a long meeting in chambers with the judge.

Journalists were told after the meeting that it had been agreed that the IFP would deliver its answering affidavit before August 10. The applicants would then deliver their heads of argument before August 17.

The IFP had to then deliver its heads of arguments before September 3.

The date for the hearing of arguments would be set on September 3.

It was the second court challenge against the IFP.

Eight Magwaza-Msibi backers lost their court bid to compel the party not to postpone its elective conference.

The eight also applied for an interdict against the party and Buthelezi to stop disciplinary action against members backing Magwaza-Msibi. Their application was dismissed with costs by the Durban High Court on Friday.

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