Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Agang One Last Time (I hope)

Those following the Agang saga will know that the two MPs were trying to gain control of the party through the courts. What follows is my personal position, rather than that of all involved. Even so, when I talk about fundraising, I mean for all concerned, not just for myself.


Let’s briefly review the timeline that leads to here:
  • 7 May election – despite doing badly, Agang wins two seats
    • at this stage the party has deep problems: a huge debt, communication with members and supporters breaks down, the member database is not accessible because of unpaid bills, the NEC is collapsing because of resignations
  • 12 June – fraud allegations against the leader surface from an unconventional source – a “provincial spokesperson” Donald Tontsi with no mandate to speak on such matters goes public
  • June 16 weekend – I am in Cape Town to try to understand what is going on since the Tontsi statements sound crazy and find no substance to the allegations and start to understand just how deep the problems are; Dr Ramphele decides to reconstitute the NEC because it has become dysfunctional and is not addressing the problems that are threatening to destroy the party
  • 19 June – Agang task Team appointed by the leader to sort out the mess meets, delayed by the promise of the other side to contribute members, who do not show up; Andries Tloumma plays the same game with mediation: agrees, then reneges without excusing himself
  • 29 June – last of a series of meetings called without any recognized process culminates in Tloumma, Tshishonga and one other original NEC member proclaiming themselves a “quorum” despite precedents that the NEC required at least 4 members for a quorum, announce they are suspending the leader and create a new NEC
  • 3 July – The NEC Dr Ramphele created announces expulsion of those behind the 29 June meeting, who  take the matter to court, refusing attempts at a negotiated solution; meanwhile Dr Ramphele announces her withdrawal from politics

To court

Those of us who were asked by Mamphela Ramphele (MAR as she is affectionately known, after her initials) to join her reconstituted NEC and task team (intended to revive the party’s flagging fortunes by addressing pressing issues like finance and collapse of our membership systems) were the target of a high court interdict in Cape Town.

We decided that it would be pointless to contest the matter since parties that decide their affairs in court lose the public. Nonetheless we felt, at the urging of members who didn’t want history to be defined by the winning side of the court battle, that we had to put our side. This we did by submitting a lengthy affidavit (which you can read here).

One of the effects of the interdict is that none of us named as respondents is entitled to speak for the party in any capacity. At the time, I was a provincial spokesperson in good standing. Their destabilization campaign started with unauthorized spokespersons making wild statements. It seems they do favour party discipline in the strictest terms when it suits their cause.

Where we are now is that the MPs’ faction has won control of the party and the problems that have existed for more than 3 months are still there to be solved. They now have to be solved by a party that had made itself look ridiculous, and which no longer has a leader of international (let alone national) stature.

Fraud claims abandoned – but not the end

By this stage, MAR was out of the fight. Though named as a respondent, she had withdrawn from the party, and used the case to persuade the MPs to drop their accusations of fraud, and we took that as a victory, because their case had been built on the claims that she was sidelining them to cover up this alleged fraud, which now turned out to have no substance. But the other side disagreed and pressed on, and our understanding was that putting this affidavit to the judge would not put us in line for costs, because we were merely adding facts for consideration, and agreeing to abide by his decision.

We were taken completely by surprise when the matter went to court Monday 4 August and the judge not only found in favour of the MPs and their supporters, but awarded costs against us. If you do not contest a matter, is not surprising that you lose. What is surprising is that the judge would award costs against us without inviting us to argue against that. We will be asking for reasons to see if we can do anything about this but in the meantime have to face the possibility of heavy costs.
Since one of the details in the order is that we cannot claim to act for Agang that in effect means we carry the costs in our personal capacity. If you think that is unfair, we invite your to help us with those costs. Anything we collect in excess of that need will go to our new active citizens movement, which you can sign up for here. If you want to support us, please fill in the form below, and deposit the money to our account.