ANC may bar lawyers at disciplinary hearings
Carien du Plessis & Thobani Ngqulunga
Johannesburg - Lawyers may soon be banned from ANC disciplinary hearings because they can make it “extraordinarily difficult to bring errant members into line”, while giving the rich an advantage.
This is one of the proposals contained in the ANC’s policy discussion document on organisational renewal, released in Johannesburg on Tuesday. It is one of a series of documents set to be discussed at the party’s policy conference in Midrand in June.
“The use of lawyers in disciplinary cases should be reviewed to ensure that the organisation does not end up in a situation where it is extraordinarily difficult to bring errant members into line.
“Otherwise, those with resources can get away with blatant transgressions and be above the organisation,” the document says.
This proposal comes on the eve of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema's appeal against his expulsion from the ANC, to the party’s national disciplinary committee of appeal.
It is set for Thursday before the party’s national disciplinary committee of appeal - the day President Jacob Zuma turns 70.
Malema has employed two senior counsel for his hearing - advocates Dali Mpofu and Patric Mtshaulana - which has been dragging on for almost eight months. This has partly been blamed on the fact that Malema has fought the case on every technical point possible, and also because his lawyers weren’t always available at the same time as disciplinary committee members were.
Last week the ANC’s disciplinary committee betrayed their frustration with the lengthy process by taking the unusual step of suspending Malema with immediate effect for comments he made recently while awaiting his appeal.
According to the party’s constitution, sanctions following a disciplinary hearing can only kick in after the internal appeals process had been exhausted.
The discussion document further says the ANC’s elected leadership should act “firmly and promptly” regardless of who is being disciplined. “The ANC should have the right to institute disciplinary action against any member, including a member if its leagues, who may violate the ANC code of conduct.”
Malema has previously argued that the ANC had no right to discipline him in his capacity as youth leader.
The party is also seeking to eliminate any possible criticism of disciplinary committee members as being partisan because they were ambitious to become leaders. Disciplinary committees “should be composed mainly of the veterans and other cadres who are beyond reproach,” it reads.
The league has repeatedly called for disciplinary committee members to recuse themselves because they were perceived as being biased, while the head of the appeal committee, Cyril Ramaphosa, is being lobbied by groups in at least two provinces to stand for a leadership position in the party.
ANC Gauteng secretary David Makhura, who briefed journalists about the document flanked by Sports Minister and the ANC’s head of organisation Fikile Mbalula at Luthuli House, also emphasised the need for political education.
“If we don’t educate our members we could end up in permanent disciplinary mode,” he warned.
Malema was ordered to undergo political education following his disciplinary hearing in 2010, but he was hauled over the coals again for the same offence just over a year later.
Answering questions from journalists about the ANC’s position on court action against the party, Makhura said it shouldn’t be used to settle internal party disputes.
Malema said last month at a rally in Limpopo, where Mbalula was also present, that he would take the party to court, but he has since been quiet on this threat.
Mbalula on Tuesday said people who are disciplined should feel there had been fairness “and that they can appear in a disciplinary and that there is recourse”.
He likened it to the justice system where, if you are unhappy about the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, you go to Braamfontein, where the Constitutional Court is.
He said, however, a disciplinary hearing should only be a last resort. Elders should first try to talk to the member in question.
The organisational renewal document also proposes that there should be a six-month probation period for joining the party, rather than the current eight weeks.
The document also denies claims that all the ANC’s problems started in the run-up to its 2007 Polokwane conference.
“It is disingenuous to suggest that factionalism, ill-discipline and in-fighting started in the run-up to and after Polokwane,” the document says.
It also says the party’s problems cannot be blamed on “specific individuals who hold leadership positions”, but these should rather be “overcome through an organisational and mass approach”.
The document also proposes ways for the party to deal with corrupt members, ways for the party to function, even if in opposition, and closer cooperation with Non-Governmental Organisations.
Meanwhile, the ANCYL’s national working committee met on Tuesday, but without Malema, whose latest suspension has barred him from participating in party or league meetings.
“One of the issues discussed was the (ANCYL’s) Limpopo congress - which is supposed to take place this week - and the suspension of Juju for calling Zuma a dictator,” an insider said.
Apparently Malema wants the Limpopo Youth League PEC to be elected this week so that he can have his people serving in the structure, so that he is not out in the cold when he is expulsion is upheld.
After dealing with the issues the NWC will then bring it to the NEC of the Youth League, a source said.
ANCYL spokespeople could not be reached for official comment late on Tuesday.