When the final bell rings at the end of a boxing match, both boxers lift their arms, proclaiming victory even before the ring announcer announces the results.
That’s precisely what happened at the conclusion of arguments during the ANC court case last Thursday.
Supporters of the first applicant, Caiphus Malumane and others, proclaimed victory and so did the supporters of the ANC and others.
In a boxing match, however, there are weights to determine if fighters are in the same boxing weight division, the same cannot be said about opponents during a court case.
No court announcer gives the record of the opponents’ attorneys. No record on the number of court cases they have won and their experiences in the legal field.
Only during the hearing, however, does the general public in the court gallery begin to do their own assessment, and like any contest, they hold certain views.
Which is precisely what one young lady opined before the start of the case. She noted that she knew and had seen one of the attorneys in action.
“Those represented by that one, will win this case,” she said pointing in the direction of one of the legal counsels who was already seated on his desk.
She had seen him in action before, even though she did not know who he was representing between the applicant and the respondents.
Before going into the ring, a boxer trains strenuously to prepare for the big fight. In a legal matter, attorneys also prepare exhaustively.
Thus, like any contest, a legal matter is not won inside court, but during preparation.
The Mpumalanga ANC case was no ordinary case. It was a political case. Those in the public gallery were not only highly opinionated, but are also highly and politically knowledgeable.
This time, a partisan crowd supporting the applicants had filled the courtroom, while those supporting the respondents were still coming all the way from Nkomazi.
It was thus inevitable that supporters would participate, hence when it became apparent that the counsel for the applicant was struggling to cope with the questions from judge Brian Mashile, there were murmurs in the court room.
A clearly irritated member of the public used a brief adjournment to tell the applicant’s legal team what they should tell Adv. Andrew Laka, who led the applicants’ legal team.
“You must write for him down,” said a member of the public, expressing his irritation that Laka was always requesting to consult with his team. He thought that it was odd for the advocate to “take instruction” during the hearing.
He felt justified to make his own opinion, because he was at the applicants’ corner.
While the applicants’ legal team looked ill-prepared, on the other side, Adv. William Mokhari’s team was calm and in their element.
Many acknowledge that Mokhari’s clients did not have a strong case, and are well known constitutional delinquents who have no regard for any ANC principles and policies, but they had a brilliant counsel.
They even had the guts to tell the court that the ANC branches had requested an early conference, something that everyone knows it’s not the truth.
In fact, after the provincial leaders of the ANC had instructed delegates to the PGC that there should be an early provincial conference that must elect David Mabuza for a third term, the branches that did not agree were disbanded.
But, in courts, it’s not what’s known that matters, but what is presented in court, and the respondents seem to have used every trick in the court book.
Regional secretaries had signed affidavits claiming that branches asked for an early conference. This surprised everyone inside the court.
Mokhari, during his presentation in court said that the applicants failed to dispute the contents of those affidavits, but that’s not true, because they did. Now it depends on the judge as to what he sees as a convincing evidence.
One of the requirements for ANC branches in good standing is that they hold monthly branch general meetings and submit reports, which they are failing dismally to do.
Yet regional secretaries signed affidavits claiming that branches held BGMs requesting an early provincial conference that was a mere four months ahead.
Did Mokhari overdo it? He even suggested that there was nothing wrong with the ANC convening a conference when there was only four months left.
Does he also believe that disregarding ANC process is normal, just like his clients?
Even acting provincial chairperson, Mandla Ndlovu, gloated about the affidavit that he and other regional secretaries have submitted to prove that branches had asked for an early conference.
While we cannot prejudge, from an organisation and preparation point of view, Mokhari’s team seem to have taken the trophy and prospective attorneys can learn that they should not take anything for granted, preparations in particular.
On the other hand, the applicants can get solace that judge Mashile already ruled in their favour by accepting their application for condonation for late application.
That’s a good sign that he wants justice to be served. But whether the applicants did enough to convince the judge to rule in their favour will only be known after 15 April.