Rajbansi’s widow wins battle to lead MF

2013-12-17 00:00

A BRUISING leadership battle within the Minority Front (MF) has finally been settled with a secret deal that sees Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi declared the leader of the party.

Thakur-Rajbansi, the widow of MF founder Amichand Rajbansi, has been embroiled in ongoing disputes over her leadership of the party since her husband’s death in December 2011.

Her arch rival for the leadership position was Member of Parliament Roy Bhoola. Two eThekwini councillors, Ravi and Oliver Govender, had been expelled from the party for assisting Bhoola in his leadership bid. They took their grievance to the Durban high court. However, last week just prior to their case and other court matters involving the MF being heard a confidential settlement agreement had been reached by the warring factions.

In a joint statement released by Thakur-Rajbansi, Bhoola and the Govenders, the MF said the settlement was a show of unity that sees the party rise above past squabbles. Commentators see the move as the MF getting its act together before next year’s general elections.

In terms of the confidential settlement agreement there will be a re-structured National Executive Committee. Thakur-Rajbansi is the recognised leader and Bhoola, the Govenders and all MF public representatives are heralded as valued members of the MF. All parties involved in the litigation agreed to pay their own costs.

The messy battle started shortly after Thakur-Rajbansi was appointed interim leader when her husband fell ill. After his death, she was endorsed as party leader at a conference held in January 2012. There was a falling out between Bhoola and his new leader, which led to his expulsion from the party.

Bhoola took his fight to the Western Cape High Court where he challenged his expulsion as well as Thakur-Rajbansi’s appointment as MF leader.

In the meantime, the Govenders, who were seen as Bhoola’s supporters, were also expelled from the party and they too went to court. In June last year the Durban high court granted an order reversing their expulsion and preventing them from being removed as MF representatives on the eThekwini council. They won their case. The Govenders went on to file further court papers this year seeking an urgent interdict preventing the party’s executive committee from holding disciplinary hearings against them. This application failed as the court found that they had not made a case for urgency as they had known about the disciplinary hearing since November 2012. They faced disciplinary action because of their alleged role in organising a counter-conference under the name of the MF in which Bhoola was named as leader of the party. The disciplinary hearing went ahead, the Govenders were found guilty and once again, expelled from the party. They again approached the court. At the same time a separate court application had been lodged contesting the legitimacy of the MF’s executive committee that presided over their disciplinary hearing. All the court applications filed this year were joined and set down for trial last week. However before the five-day hearing was due to start, the settlement agreement was reached.

In the joint statement the MF litigants thanked the legal representatives on both sides for assisting in resolving their impasse. Attorneys involved included Anesh Maharaj, Craig Preston-Whyte and advocates Kisoon Singh SC, Mickey Naidoo and Natalie Lange.

Thakur-Rajbansi and Bhoola said the settlement will see the MF moving forward united in its resolve to continue service delivery. “The community must be assured of an effective and efficient MF.”

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