While Sandton ANC member Votani Majola has a point, he could not argue it properly in court

Eric Naki

Since Votani Majola's failed bid to stop the ANC national conference in Polokwane, I have wondered if he does not have a point in his argument that the acrimony in the ANC is so high that it warrants a postponement.

But then, as the Johannesburg High Court judge Hilton Epstein said, wouldn't postponing the conference further heighten the tensions in the party?

While Majola has a point, he could not argue it properly in court. Although he is an attorney by profession, he seemed unfamiliar with court processes and the way lawyers deal with issues.

ANC lawyer, Advocate Kabelo Lingani had an easy task against Majola. At some stage even the judge suggested that Majola should get a legal representative, but he insisted on representing himself and "many others" in his class action case.

It was then that it became clear, even to the legally challenged, that his case would be weak and it was most likely to be thrown out.

He was himself and his jacket despite handling such a vital issue. Also, he claimed to represent "many others" countrywide he did not name.

The case was further weakened when the ANC Sandton 103 branch of which Majola is a treasurer and the ANC headquarters itself, despised him. The Sandton branch executive at the weekend suspended Majola for bringing the ANC into disrepute and failing to work within a collective.

In court, journalists covering the case asked: "Who is sponsoring Majola? Who are the "many others" he claimed to represent?

He failed in his argument to persuade the judge to decide in his favour, in his urgent application which was meant to obtain an interdict to stop the ANC from going ahead with its national conference. Majola seemed unprepared for the case and more interested in appealing the decision than the decision itself.

Perhaps the basis of his argument with regard to the acrimony, may be clear when discussed from an out-of-court perspective considering the happenings within the ANC in the run-up to Polokwane.

The acrimony is tangible. When a leader and party stalwart of the calibre of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela expresses concern about this to the extent of wanting to intervene, to convince the two protagonists, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, so as to prevent its escalation, Majola's claim becomes legitimate.

The recent fist fights among Mbeki and Zuma followers illustrate how the situation has deteriorated.

It is no secret that ANC Youth League members aligned to Mbeki are being expelled, suspended or marginalised throughout the country. Rubben Mohlaloga was kicked out of the league for expressing an opposing view. Other incidents include the disbanding of the ANCYL PEC in the Eastern Cape; the recent marginalisation of the league's ten NEC members from the 68-member delegation to the ANC national conference. Last week 10 ANCYL members were expelled and 40 others suspended at Nelson Mandela region for supporting Mbeki instead of Zuma.

Those SACP district structures and individuals perceived as being pro-Mbeki are disbanded or marginalised. The disbanding of a Limpopo-based district structure and isolation of party senior member, Willie Madisha is another case in point.

The same argument goes for Cosatu which has been attempting to remove Madisha, reportedly for being too close to Mbeki.

The ANC Women's League is divided down the middle over their nomination of Zuma and Kgalema Motlanthe as ANC president and deputy president candidates, respectively.

Party NEC members daily exchange strong words as they disagree on who must lead between Mbeki and Zuma. The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association has called for national chairman, Mosiuoa Lekota to recuse himself from presiding at the conference for being biased against Zuma.

Press statements and online columns are daily distributed by the SACP and Young Communists leaders to feed into the "war of words".

Considering these factors, one may be justified to say Majola had a point, but not a case as he blundered by not preparing for it or even taking the matter through party structures first. Also the timing of his court application is questionable.

Shadrack Gutto, director of the Centre for African Renaissance at Unisa said it is correct that the atmosphere is tense and not conducive to free expression and ANC processes are currently marred by intimidation, manipulation and fear.

"There are indications that some people from both sides may feel intimidated and not free to express themselves at the conference.

"But to say there is a high potential for violence is rather exaggerated," said Gutto.