PAC faction drags Speaker into party’s leadership battle

Moloto group demands Nyhontso be booted out of parliament

Siviwe Feketha Political reporter
A faction of the PAC is accusing National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise of failing boot out its MP Mzwanele Nyhontso.
A faction of the PAC is accusing National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise of failing boot out its MP Mzwanele Nyhontso.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

The embattled Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) has dragged National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise into the battle over its solitary parliamentary seat and threatened her with a legal suit as one faction accused her office of illegally frustrating it by not booting out its MP Mzwanele Nyhontso.

Nyhontso is just but one of the PAC leaders who lay claim to the presidency of the troubled former liberation movement, alongside his archrival Narius Moloto.

Over the years, the PAC has been embroiled in bruising factional battles that have seen it being led by parallel structures, each with its own president, national executive committee and headquarters in Johannesburg, while its warring factions continued to counter-expel each other from the troubled party.

In November last year, Modise removed Nyhontso from his parliamentary seat after the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the 2019 decision by the PAC to expel him could only be set aside by a court of law.

While the party’s parallel structures struck a unity deal ahead of the 2019 elections, Nyhontso was expelled by Moloto’s faction after unity talks collapsed over who was to head the party.

Nyhontso successfully sought an interim order against his parliamentary removal at the Western Cape High Court in February, before his application was set aside with costs by the court late last month.

Modise has, however, not removed Nhyontso from the post after he sought to appeal against the ruling.

Moloto laments that Nyhontso’s continued stay in parliament was illegal and that he and his party would mount a legal challenge should he establish that he continued to be remunerated on the basis of representing the troubled organisation.

“That is a violation of the Constitution and we will legally challenge it. That seat is not lawfully and legally occupied. We have also consulted the Public Protector about this because once a person operates outside the framework of the Constitution and the law, it has serious implications for her [Modise],” Moloto said.

“Nyhontso is working in parliament while the court order clearly confirms that he ceased to be a member of the PAC. Someone must answer and any resources or money paid we have to be accounted for,” he said.

Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said Modise was still considering the matter and that she would pronounce it once she had considered it.

The bitter battle within the party has seen its electoral support dwindling from the almost 250,000 votes it secured in 1994 which guaranteed it five parliamentary seats to just over 30,000 votes in 2019, which secured it the only seat the party is currently fighting over.

On Tuesday, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) told the two PAC factions that it maintained its position of not recognising any of the factions as it had told them last year.

Despite having previously recognised Nyhontso’s faction, the IEC indicated that “for as long as this leadership dispute persists, the commission will not recognise any of the groupings contending for the leadership of the party”.

A judgment is currently reserved by the North Gauteng High Court in a separate fight over which faction was ultimately legitimate to lead the PAC and it remains unclear how the IEC will deal with the two parallel entities ahead of the local government elections.

Speaking on behalf of Nyhontso’s faction, Jacki Seroke pointed out that they would not relinquish power of the party “until this ruling is delivered and we are confident that it will be in our favour”. 

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