Durban - A shock court bid to nullify the leadership of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal - just a week before the local government elections - has exposed the thinly-veiled fault lines in the ruling party.
The application seeks to have the outcome of the ANC's 8th provincial elective conference, which took place in Pietermaritzburg in November last year, scrapped.
If successful, the move could see the entire provincial leadership ousted.
In a notice of motion filed in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, dated July 22 and obtained by News24 - the five applicants ask the court to nullify the outcomes of the conference.
The five are Lawrence Dube, Sibahle Zikalala, Martin Mzangwa, Mzweni Ngcobo and Lindiwe Buthelezi.
They have asked the court to rule that the decisions, resolutions and elections are declared unlawful and invalid and be set aside, and that any recognition of the conference by the ANC also be declared invalid.
Applicants want ANC to pay costs
The 39 respondents include provincial ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala, his deputy Willies Mchunu, other top party figures, the ANC itself, and the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa.
The applicants also asked that the costs of the application be paid by the ANC and gave the respondents until mid-September to oppose the motion.
The elective conference in question saw Zikalala beat former Premier Senzo Mchunu to become the provincial chairperson.
Zikalala won the position with 780 votes, while Mchunu received 675 votes in a process where 1 459 delegates voted.
Other leaders elected were deputy chairperson Willies Mchunu, secretary Super Zuma, deputy secretary Mluleki Ndobe and treasurer Nomusa Dube-Ncube.
In the wake of the conference, and Mchunu's ousting, disgruntled members, believed to be his supporters, launched appeals demanding that the conference be nullified as they believed it had been rigged.
Senzo Mchunu supporters axed
It was alleged that there were "ghost delegates" and duplication of accreditation tags, but the ANC denied this.
Subsequently, the internal appeals failed and the party found that the conference was credible.
Disgruntled members also marched to the ANC's provincial offices because they were not satisfied with the conference outcomes, but the party took disciplinary action against those members.
Seven months after the conference, those perceived to have supported Mchunu were axed and replaced during a cabinet reshuffle in June, which the new leadership had vowed would not take place during the conference.
Mchunu was forced to resign from his position as the premier of the province and he was replaced by ANC deputy chairperson Willies Mchunu.
After the resignation, new Premier Willies Mchunu reshuffled the cabinet and axed economic development MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu along with sport, arts and culture MEC Ntombikayise Sabhidla-Saphetha, education's Peggy Nkonyeni and agriculture and rural development's Cyril Xaba.
They were replaced by Bongi Sithole-Moloi (sport, arts and culture), Sihle Zikalala (economic development) and Mthandeni Dlungwana (education). Xaba will be replaced by Themba Mthembu.
Matter to be dealt with after elections
The vacant transport portfolio was filled by Mxolisi Kaunda, a position previously held by the new premier.
Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni resigned from the legislature following the reshuffle.
At a municipal level, Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi, who was believed to be in Senzo Mchunu's camp, was suspended for financial irregularities.
Prior to the provincial elective conference, the ANC had struggled to hold a successful regional conference, where eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo and then-councillor Zandile Gumede went head-to-head.
Several attempts were made to hold the conference, but it was only held after the provincial conference. It was believed that the strategy was to secure Zikalala as chairperson so that he could assist Gumede become the regional chairperson.
The regional conference eventually sat on the fifth attempt, with Gumede, who had the backing of Zikalala, trumping Nxumalo, who enjoyed Mchunu's support.
ANC provincial spokesperson Mdumiseni Ntuli said that the notice had been served on the party and that the matter would be dealt with after the elections.
- Find everything you need to know about the 2016 Local Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections, or download the app for iOS and Android.