South Africa – Court setback to Dlamini-Zuma’s presidential hopes, but it’s not over yet

Ramaphosa vs Dlamini-Zuma - []

The Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday, September 12, dealt a hammer blow to the presidential prospects of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma when it declared the leadership structures in her most powerful regional stronghold unlawful, but it is not yet a fatal blow and her allies in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) will fight this judgement tooth and nail.

There is no doubt that the current leadership of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal – staunch backers of the presidential campaign of Ms Dlamini-Zuma – will fight the High Court decision that their 2015 elections were unlawful through the appellate division and up to the constitutional court – ensuring at the very least a lengthy delay in the implementation of the court ruling.

Courts recess in mid-December, so that leaves just over 12 weeks to finalise the matter and that is not enough time to obtain finality before the ANC National Congress gets underway in mid-December.

So, while the decision potentially undermines Ms Dlamini-Zuma’s allies in the powerful province, it will not side-line them completely and powerful patronage networks remain in place.

The court application followed the hotly-contested 2015 regional conference that elected Sihle Zikalala as the provincial chairperson, over former chairperson Senzo Mchunu whose supporters believed the elections were rigged.

The victors in court on Tuesday wanted their opponents to vacate their offices immediately, but that seems doomed to fail.

“Our immediate expectation is that the NEC [National Executive Committee of the ANC] should then order the comrades to vacate the office and institute perhaps or place an interim structure that is going to oversee processes of rebuilding the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, should they fail to do so it would mean actually they even don’t want all of us to be party of this broader church,” the applicant’s spokesperson said.

The Provincial Executive Committee (PEC), meanwhile, said it was considering challenging the ruling at the Supreme Court of Appeal, and even at the Constitutional Court.

“We are convinced that a different court higher than this one has a huge possibility to come to a different conclusion however we will study this judgment and we are going to consult with the NEC in order to determine the next course of action but we believe that there would be sufficient basis for us to take the matter up until the matter is settled.”

The court decision will damage the campaign of Ms Dlamini-Zuma because it upsets and distracts some of her strongest allies and gives encouragement to rival campaigns – notably that of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

But this fight is not over.

The incumbent leadership in the province will certainly appeal the decision and they will take the full 15 days allowed to do so.

Then it goes to the next court and the next in what has become a serial tactic of the President Jacob Zuma faction – delay and delay and delay.

In addition, the tactic of removing hostile provincial executive committees will spread to other regions – including those supportive of Mr Ramaphosa – so we can anticipate more of the same, probably with some dirty tricks thrown in.