The ANC’s financial crisis, its emaciated secretary-general’s office and Covid-19 restrictions have caused a perfect storm ahead of the local government elections as the party failed to meet the candidate nomination submission deadline in about 35 municipalities across the country.
Now the party has resorted to approaching the electoral court to request that another extension be given to political parties to file their nomination lists.
On Sunday, City Press reported that unpaid salaries could lead to the ANC missing the deadline to register all its candidates with the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC). ANC staff are currently on a protracted strike over unpaid salaries, which means that there were too few administrative staff to help with the compilation of candidate lists.
City Press has seen a letter from Febe Potgieter, the general manager of the ANC, in which she made a plea to party members last week to suspend their strike and work overtime so that candidate lists could be completed by Monday.
According to ANC sources, the lists were about 80% complete by last Wednesday, but there was a “real fear” that the names of hundreds of ward councillor candidates would not be submitted to the IEC in time. This would mean that the ANC could not nominate candidates for these wards and would therefore automatically forfeit them.
On Thursday afternoon, party deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte called a last-minute press briefing and emphasised that it would make a massive impact on citizens, political parties and society generally if the ANC is unable to contest in these wards.
“In certain instances, this might result in a change of government regardless of how citizens might want to vote. We want to assure our members, candidates and supporters that we are doing everything in our power to correct this. We also hope that the Constitutional Court and the IEC will take note of the massive impact that excluding the ANC in so many municipalities or wards will have on the voters’ right to choose public representatives of their choice,” Duarte said.
She explained that a number of factors affected the ANC’s readiness this year, including political meetings being banned last month due to level 4 lockdown regulations.
The ANC says it has repeatedly raised the impact of Covid-19-related restrictions on meetings, with only 50 people indoors for June and August and no meetings for July, with the IEC, and with the Moseneke inquiry that looked into the possibility of free and fair elections during the pandemic and, eventually, with the Constitutional Court.
“We joined the IEC and other parties in the plea to the Constitutional Court to postpone elections so that parties and voters could exercise their democratic rights. Key to our and the IEC’s application was the time needed for candidate and voter registration. Unfortunately, judgment has been reserved and [the IEC] has not been able to postpone the candidate registration process,” said Duarte.
“As a result, our deadlines were very hard to meet. We faced numerous challenges: many candidates’ IDs were rejected due to the absence of voter registration during the period; the IEC system repeatedly froze and locked our administrators out during the final few hours before the deadline; and data already entered was voided and had to be re-entered,” she explained.
If the ANC fails in its application to the electoral court, it will have to face the wrath of its constituents who submitted names to Luthuli House, only to find that they did not make it to the IEC. It is not yet known which regions are affected.
Despite all these factors, Duarte has maintained that the party was not among those that had asked for the deadline to be extended to 9pm on Monday.
“We did not ask for a change in the deadline, the deadline we were given initially is 5pm and we would have been very ready at 5pm. We were informed via our party liaison that the IEC had made such a decision, but I do want to assure you that the ANC did not indicate it, instigate it, ask for it, require it,” she insisted.
Earlier this week, the commission’s chief electoral officer, Sy Mamabolo, said that the submission of candidates had been extended after appeals from a number of political parties, which he did not mention by name. He added that by Tuesday morning, there were still requests for more time, which the IEC had not decided on.
However, on Wednesday afternoon, EFF leader Julius Malema claimed the commission was in cahoots with the ANC, adding that the IEC had extended the deadline for candidate nomination submissions for the governing party.
“They postponed the time because the ANC could not meet the deadline of 5pm. The IEC says to us: ‘We are postponing the closing time from 5pm to 9pm because of the queries that came from different political parties.’ They don’t give us the names of those political parties. How do you call that transparency?” Malema said.
The EFF has written to the commission requesting a technical report on the times each political party submitted their candidates.
The EFF will oppose the ANC’s application to the electoral court seeking to amend the elections timetable.
The EFF called on other political parties and the IEC to oppose the ANC’s application to protect its integrity, saying that the governing party had ample time to query the election timetable.
“It is therefore opportunistic and unacceptable of the ANC, which knew of the election date before all political parties, to approach the electoral court to accommodate their incompetence and inability to meet deadlines because of infighting and factionalism.
“The argument that the ANC’s delay was due to a faulty electronic system is false and disingenuous because the IEC had an option of manual submissions for candidates that could not be submitted electronically,” the EFF said.