Court recognises Mbinda as PAC leader

2016-04-21 15:46

Pretoria - The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has been ordered by the court to recognise Luthando Mbinda as the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) leader for purposes of the upcoming local government elections.

Granting the order in the High Court in Pretoria, Judge Tati Makgoka said, although his ruling should not be understood to mean that the Mbinda faction were the legitimate leaders of the PAC, it was in the public interest for the IEC to be given direction with whom it should interact.

The PAC faction - led by Mbinda, the party's sole representative in the National Assembly - applied for a court order after the IEC suspended public funding to the party until its leadership struggle had been resolved.

The IEC in June last year suspended the allocation of funds to the PAC and withheld recognition of both opposing factions of the party.

The Mbinda faction and a faction led by former PAC leader Letlapa Mphahlele have been at loggerheads for years about who the real leaders of the party are, with Alton Mphethi also claiming to be the party's legitimate president.

The leadership battle has led to a series of court applications between the warring factions, which are still ongoing.

PAC secretary general Narius Moloto said in court papers that the IEC's decision could cause the demise of the PAC, which has taken part in every election since 1994.

Moloto insisted that Mphahlele remained suspended from the party, and that there was, in fact, no leadership dispute which the IEC could use as a reason to prevent the party from taking part in the upcoming elections.

'He, therefore, remains expelled from the PAC'

IEC deputy chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said in an affidavit that the commission was in the unfortunate position that it did not know who the PAC's leaders were, and that the dispute should be resolved as soon as possible, either through the political process, or through the courts.

Mphahlele was expelled from the PAC in 2013, but obtained a court order to set aside his expulsion. The Mbinda faction appealed and a full bench of the court upheld his expulsion in October last year.

Mphahlele never appealed against the full bench's ruling, but claims he has since been re-elected as the PAC's leader.

Judge Makgoka said Mphahlele remained expelled from the PAC and that it was an untenable proposition that he could circumvent the appeal process by simply "re-instating" himself.

He said all parties were in agreement that it was in the public interest, especially for the PAC members and supporters, to make a provisional order on which faction of the PAC the IEC should interact with for purposes of the elections.

He turned down the Mphahlele's appeal that the IEC should recognise both the Mbinda and Mhahlele factions as representing the PAC, saying this would give rise to more complex issues.

"Much as one would wish to be as accommodative as possible to the various factions in the PAC, I have to defer to the views of the IEC, and not hamstring it with a complicated and difficult-to-implement order.

"... Mbinda's faction has been successful in upholding Mphahlele's expulsion from the PAC. There is currently no pending litigation between the PAC and Mphahele concerning the leadership of the PAC or his expulsion from the PAC. He therefore remains expelled from the PAC.

"All his conduct and actions, purportedly on behalf of the PAC, while his suspension remains, are obviously without any force," Judge Makgoka added.

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