A legal opinion obtained by a rival of the DA’s Natasha Mazzone for the position of deputy federal chairperson has found her election to the post to be invalid.
The advice, sought by Gauteng South chairperson Khume Ramulifho and distributed to the DA’s federal executive committee this week, punched holes in the party’s “erroneous reasoning” for allowing Mazzone to keep that position.
Ramulifho, who contested Mazzone for the position, has threatened court action, accusing the DA of “appointing” the latter in a procedurally flawed process.
He says that the decision to vote for the second deputy chairperson was made before the constitution was amended. At the time, the DA’s constitution had provided for a federal chairperson and one deputy.
The party’s congress in April resolved to amend the constitution, but the decision was not ratified.
Ramulifho argues that the decision that Mazzone would take up the position – she was the runner-up to deputy federal chairperson Thomas Walters – was illegal. He pointed out that the party had to wait for the federal council to adopt the amendment instead of voting for a nonexistent position.
The matter had been referred to the DA’s federal legal commission, which had the power and authority to interpret the party’s constitution and decide on the legality of what transpired.
The commission found that there was a defect at the time the vote took place as the position had not yet been created.
To Ramulifho’s dismay, it described this defect as “immaterial” because the federal council had decided that the vote would take place pending the adoption of the proposal by congress.
“In my view, the reasoning of the federal legal commission is erroneous for two fundamental reasons. The Federal council is unable to impose its decision on the congress that the vote would proceed pending the adoption by congress of the proposal. The congress is the supreme policy-making and governing body of the party,” reads the legal opinion from JL Kaplan Associates, dated May 29.
“While the federal legal commission correctly found that there was a defect, it erred in describing the defect as immaterial. Simply put, a defect is a defect and remains as such until such time as it is cured,” said the law firm.
It further states that “the commission appears to have made the error of substituting what they regard as reasonable or sensible”. It also states that Mazzone’s election was not ratified by congress.
“Until such time as the defect is ratified by congress, it remains a defect, and [JL Kaplan Associates] is of the view that the appointment of the second deputy chairperson on April 8 is invalid and of no force or effect.”
Federal executive chairperson James Selfe has since written a letter to his colleagues in the executive to inform them that the party had also sought legal advice and that it would be supplied as soon as it was available.
A lot now hinges on that legal advice as it could lead to yet another court challenge.
Mazzone told City Press that she would abide by the legal opinion obtained by the federal executive.