By SIKHO NTSHOBANE and ZINGISA MVUMVU
A bid by two ANC members to overturn the 2015 OR Tambo regional election failed yesterday.
Mthatha High Court Judge Selby Mbenenge last night dismissed the case brought by two disgruntled members – Badanile Mntamo and Mlandeli Ndabetha.
The judge also ruled that the costs be paid by the OR Tambo ANC regional executive committee, ANC provincial executive committee (PEC) and national executive committee (NEC).
The judge said the applicants had taken too long to launch the application disputing processes that led to the election of the OR Tambo REC.
“The applicants did not launch the application within the reasonable period from October 2015. In exercise of my discretion, I find that the explanation provided … does not pass.
In the judgment, passed shortly after 6pm, Mbenenge said it was clear both applicants had been alive to the irregularities as they happened during the said regional conference.
“The order is dismissed,” he told the packed courtroom.
Pandemonium broke out inside the courtroom as soon as Mbenenge stepped out as party members who had sat silently while the judge read through his judgment, erupted into whistles while others ululated.
Speaking to the media afterwards, ANC deputy regional secretary for the OR Tambo region Mesuli Ngqondwana said they had always maintained the 2015 regional conference had been duly constituted, hence they had not been shaken by the applications.
“We always knew that any reasonable court would find that there was nothing irregular,” he said.’
He said the focus now would shift to uniting the ANC which would include reaching out to the applicants.
Speaking on behalf of the lawyers representing the ANC, Kholisile Mabanga said they were happy with the judgment as it meant the provincial elective conference would go ahead as planned this weekend.
Lawyer Mpendulo Stoyile, who was part of the team representing Ndabetha and Mntamo, said while they accepted the judgment, they would meet with their clients and analyse the case and look for a way forward.
He argued that the case had not been dismissed on merit but rather on a technicality as it was deemed that they had taken too long to bring in the applications.
“Maybe a different judge will be on our side. We will see if we can appeal if our clients instruct us that way.”
ANC lawyers had earlier argued that the two applicants were not ANC members at the time of the conference.
Mntamo, from ward 24 in Mhlontlo, and Ndabetha from ward 8 had sought to have the 2015 conference nullified on grounds of irregularities.
These, they said included dead members being included as delegates in branch general meetings prior to the regional elective conference.
Advocate Ntsikelelo Mtshabe for the ANC said Ndabetha had not submitted proof he was a member of the ANC at the branch general meeting in ward 8 prior to the 2015 regional conference.
On Mntamo, Mtshabe argued that the former’s name did not appear on a list submitted by the NEC on who should have attended the BGM in his ward 24 in Mhlontlo.
“He should have challenged the non-appearance of his name on the list. He should have said to the national office that his name does not appear on the list. But the first applicant waited until today to challenge this,” he argued.
Advocate Apla Bodlani, also for the ANC, also insisted Mntamo and Ndabetha could not challenge the party as they were not ANC members.
But Mntamo’s legal counsel, advocate Phil Zilwa SC, argued that his client had produced documents submitted in court which proved he was a paid-up member in good standing in the ANC in 2015. — firstname.lastname@example.org