Shilowa court bid dismissed

By Drum Digital
10 January 2014

The High Court in Pretoria has dismissed a last-minute bid by former Congress of the People deputy leader Mbhazima Shilowa and members aligned to him to stop the party's national elective congress from going ahead.

The party's first national congress started in Boksburg on Friday and will end on Sunday.

Judge Nicoline Janse van Nieuwenhuizen dismissed an urgent application on Friday by Shilowa and six fellow applicants.

They wanted to interdict Cope and its national executive from holding the congress pending the final determination of an appeals process against an earlier High Court ruling in favour of Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota.

The Shilowa and Lekota factions have been involved in a running battle about the leadership of the party since 2010, but the court ruled in favour of Lekota in October.

In September 2012, Shilowa obtained an interim interdict in the High Court in Johannesburg to stop Cope from convening a national elective congress pending the hearing of an action about the leadership of the party.

Monde Ralo (a Shilowa supporter) alleged in an affidavit that the interim interdict remained in force, despite the October court ruling in favour of Lekota.

However, Lekota contended that the interdict lapsed the moment the main application commenced, and that the Shilowa faction in any event had no chance of a successful appeal.

Shilowa's application for leave to appeal against the October ruling has been set down for hearing on January 24.

Ralo alleged that Cope and Lekota's insistence on going ahead with the congress was "disingenuous, if not contemptuous".

"A certain faction of Cope, seeing that there exist the two opposing factions, was kept in the dark, so to speak, regarding the convening of national, provincial and regional congresses and was not informed timeously, in many instances not at all," he said.

"It seems that all the national and provincial congresses were scheduled with extreme haste in order to exclude certain elected members within the provinces, other factions and/or members within Cope," he said.

According to Ralo, his faction found out about the national congress only on January 6 and immediately took steps to launch an urgent application.

Lekota questioned this allegation, and said the national congress had already been convened in October, and was publicised on Cope's website and in the print and electronic media.

He said Shilowa's second-in-command, Zale Madonsela, was a "vigorous participant" in Cope's Facebook discussions, and was also involved in almost every single piece of litigation that had ensued as a result of the leadership battle over the past few years.

He quoted a posting by Madonsela in which she said: "Tomorrow we are marching to north Gauteng to interdict the Mickey Mouse national congress."

"It is inconceivable that a grouping of people who have been actively litigating over a period of several years in various courts and under various guises in attempts to prove that they are the legitimate leaders of Cope [and even though they have failed all the way so far] would not follow media commentary on Cope, events on the Cope website or events within the legitimate structures," he said.

He contended that the Shilowa faction's purported election to leadership in 2010 was "nothing other than a farce", and that it was inconceivable that their application for leave to appeal would be successful.

Lekota said they had taken steps to normalise the membership of Cope by adopting a renewal policy in terms of which all members had to renew their membership and sign the party's code of conduct.

However, none of the applicants had done so and were therefore not even members of Cope.

He said Cope was the third largest political party in the country and it was important that its national elective congress took place timeously as Cope needed to prepare for the national elections, which would probably be held in April.

Cope, like every other political party, needed to inform the general voting public where it stood on all issues, but the leadership dispute had hampered this processes for the whole five years since the last election.

"The general public is prejudiced, and the democratic process therefore hampered, where a political party, particularly the third largest, is hampered in its preparation," said Lekota.

"Without a national congress, Cope is severely hamstrung in its participation in the democratic process," he said.

"One must wonder why the applicants place their own self-interests above the interests of Cope to the extent that they would rather not see Cope effectively participate in this election than having to work within the existing legitimate structures of Cope," Lekota said.

He said the total cost of the congress was about R7 million out of the R10m provided to the party by the Independent Electoral Commission and that it would have been spent in vain if the congress could not proceed with its business.

-SAPA

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