When it rains, it pours for the ANC

2012-11-24 13:18

Just when you thought the ANC had too many headaches to contend with already – the impending vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma, the Nkandlagate scandal that is spiralling out of control, the mysterious spy tapes and the rigging of nominations for the recently held local government elections, to mention but a few – an even more acute migraine has rattled the governing party.

The Constitutional Court has granted its aggrieved ANC Free State members leave to appeal and with that set a firm date for the merits (not just technicalities) of the case to be argued in court.

These members approached the Constitutional Court after allegedly not having joy with the party’s own dispute resolution mechanisms.

They claim their protestations regarding the manipulation of processes and the blatant violation of the ANC’s constitution in the lead-up to the infamous ANC Free State provincial conference fell on deaf ears.

Their cries were reportedly escalated to Zuma and, disappointingly, hardly a finger was raised. It is even claimed the party’s national executive committee endorsed the outcome of the disputed Free State conference.

In an instance in which ANC structures are unable to act on or simply brush aside allegations of serious wrongdoing, what are members expected to do in the search for redress?

Should they just let it slide, given the hovering threat that any member who takes ANC matters to court faces expulsion? That would be a travesty of justice.

This is the context in which the legal action by the aggrieved ANC members needs to be viewed. It is an act of desperation, given that their organisation’s structures and processes have failed them. It is also a principled stance as it affords the ANC

an opportunity to introspect.

Are the ANC’s dispute resolution mechanisms adequate? Are there checks and balances against abuse?

What of its position against court interventions in instances where internal processes are found wanting or abused vis-à-vis the lack of consequences for dereliction of duty or those with a penchant to abuse ANC systems and procedures?

Given this conundrum and our courts having hitherto steered away from dwelling into intra-party matters, the Constitutional Court ruling is ground-breaking.

The battle for the soul of the ANC is raging. The question is: if the ANC’s internal mechanisms prove inadequate or are not geared towards addressing the issues at stake satisfactorily, what then?

The ANC is in a pickle as it has to defend its policies, processes and procedures in court, an unprecedented action indeed.

Hopefully, lessons will be learnt.

Chief among these lessons is developing dispute resolution mechanisms with safeguards that ensure they are not susceptible to abuse and manipulation by factions, as is apparent in the current Free State case.

Rather than being preoccupied with leadership contestations leading up to and during the elective conference in Mangaung next month, ANC members should apply their minds to how disputes can be amicably resolved.

They should also reflect on alternative avenues available to members in the event that internal dispute mechanisms prove to be inadequate or are abused to further narrow self-interests.

These mechanisms should be credible, beyond reproach and resilient enough to outlive ­individuals. Otherwise, the ANC faces the real danger of its powers to resolve intraparty disputes ­being usurped by the courts.

» Mogodiri is a political and media commentator

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