Deployees of the ANC whose party membership was recently suspended, together with that of North West Premier Job Mokgoro, said they would continue doing their work as normal until their appeal had been finalised.
The four members of the provincial legislature (MPLs) in the North West and Mokgoro were suspended by the ANC interim provincial committee (IPC) following a decision by its working committee late last week. They are accused of having voted with the opposition in defiance of their ANC caucus, during the election of the chair of chairs on Thursday last week.
An MPL who spoke for the suspended group, Bitsa Lenkopane, who is also the acting provincial secretary of the ANC Women’s League, said brakes were automatically pulled on a decision to suspend their membership when they lodged their appeals.
“When we appeal, the status quo remains … we are at work and have been participating in committees and our general responsibilities as members of the provincial legislature. The new chair of chairs, Priscilla Williams, went for induction on Wednesday and we are attending a chairperson’s forum on Friday,” she said.
“As disciplined members of the governing party we cannot say much directly on the charges or the processes, as this is an internal matter. I can only confirm that we are at work.”
Lenkopane said this after it was announced that they were going to be regulated and have their work closely monitored. She said they were back at work under normal working conditions.
Coordinator of the IPC, Hlomani Chauke, said the same about Mokgoro, adding that he was expected to do what he was told. It sounded as if he was going to have his powers curbed and that one of the four MPLs was going to be barred from going to work and participating in activities of the legislature. But Lenkopane said they were all back at work.
She confirmed that Mokgoro has also lodged an appeal, albeit after the four others “because he got communication on the suspension of his membership late”.
“It is baffling that we lodged our appeals on January 29 after we were informed of the decision to suspend our memberships, but the IPC, which was notified of the appeal but still went on to announce the same decision at a media briefing two days later, never mentioned it. It is our understanding that they have now been officially notified of our appeals by Luthuli House,” she said.
The five ANC deployees are accused of having defied a party caucus mandate and went on to support the opposition against their own party. The party said during a media briefing on Sunday that it “noted that a directive by the ANC to have the election of the chair of chairs conducted through an open ballot was communicated to the caucus of legislature”. The IPC said the information that the party’s preferred candidate was known to be Lenah Miga was also communicated to its MPLs.
The ANC expressed its “disappointment [about] the reports that some ANC members elected to disregard the party mandate by voting against a motion initiated by the chief-whip of the majority party, the ANC, to have elections conducted through an open ballot”.
“In an act of open defiance, five ANC members collaborated with the opposition to defeat the mandate of the party by voting through a show of hands in favour of the secret ballot,” Chauke said.
While it has not been publicly expressed by the leadership structure, it appears that the IPC was more irked by the outcome of the election, which was subsequently held in secret. In the end, it was another ANC MPL, Williams, who emerged as the new chair of chairs. Williams, who is among the suspended MPLs, was nominated by the DA against Miga, who was nominated by her own party, the ANC.
Sources within the ANC said the decision to suspend memberships was more influenced by Miga’s loss of the race to Williams, and the calculations suggesting that some ANC MPLs could have possibly voted for the latter in yet another defiance of the party’s mandate.
Chauke tried to explain this on Sunday: “Comrade Priscilla Williams, who was not the party preference, was elected chair of chairs of the North West provincial legislature. Notwithstanding the fact that the ANC has the majority in the legislature, its preference was miscarried.
“Through their actions, the five ANC deployees who defied the party mandate have brought the organisation into disrepute. Their actions constitute gross violation of the ANC constitution and a breach of their membership oath,” he said.
Attempts to get a reaction from the IPC on the appeal by the suspended party deployees drew a blank, with the phone and messages of its spokesperson, Kenny Morolong, going unanswered.