Some opposition parties are claiming the proposal underlies a plan to ensure increased support for the ANC in provinces where it's battling to regain lost political ground.
But Ayanda Dlodlo, chairperson of the ANC national executive sub-committee on governance and legislature and also minister of home affairs, said the resolution was made many years ago, thus it was disingenuous to suggest the move was connected to recent losses at the polls.
The ANC resolved at the Polokwane conference in 2007 to reduce the number of provinces from nine to six. This was reaffirmed by the policy conference in Nasrec, Johannesburg, in June.
ANC conferences and national general councils had also endorsed the proposal to reduce the provinces from nine to six, she said. It was based on the fact that some provinces and their municipalities were not viable, she added.
Two years ago, former co-operative governance minister Pravin Gordhan reduced the number of municipalities by 30 because some of the local councils in rural areas were not viable.
The Municipal Demarcation Board said another process to merge some of the non-viable municipalities would be undertaken after the local government elections last year.
The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were the most affected provinces as most of the merged municipalities were there.
Dlodlo said determining the process to reduce the number of provinces was for the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and a presidential commission to work out.
At its national general council in 2015, the ANC decided a presidential commission should be established to do this.
“If decisions are taken at the national general council or a conference, the time-frame is five years although it is not implicit,” she added.
“This conversation about the reduction happened long before we experienced losses."
After the decision was taken it was referred to the Department of Co-operative Governance and the president to deal with.
Both the presidential spokesperson, Bongani Ngqulunga, and the spokesperson for the Department of Co-operative Governance, Lega- dima Leso, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In the municipal elections in August last year, the ANC lost the key metros of Joburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. Its support in Gauteng is under threat, having declined from 63% to 54% last year.