Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

ANC scrambles to woo voters amid Covid-19 lockdowns

By Noni Mokati Time of article published Feb 14, 2021

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Johannesburg - ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte says the ruling party has already drafted guidelines for the upcoming local government elections scheduled to be held later this year.

This comes as political parties scramble to find innovative ways to woo the existing and new voters amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the adjusted level 3 lockdown regulations which currently prohibit large gatherings.

"We can't hold BGMs (branch general meetings) that would select candidates nor have community meetings at this stage. What we are experimenting with is whether we can do this digitally. We have (already) experimented in several ways where we have had large meetings. We have had our lekgotla digitally where we were able to have more than a thousand people," Duarte said, adding during lekgotla, breakaway rooms had 500 people each. “So we have mastered that.”

“The draft guidelines, among other things, includes the use of digital applications and platforms such as hosting meetings via Zoom. Zoom takes up to 1000 people in a room and the other platforms are less. So we know we can do this," said Duarte.

But with current inequality norms that exist coupled with grossly expensive data costs, Duarte admitted that the system would prejudice voters from impoverished communities as some currently can't afford smartphones and other digital devices.

''You can get Zoom on your cellphone, but you can't do it for five hours. We are at the stage where we are looking at hybrids where people can gather together. A branch has 400 people, and we are checking whether we can allow 50 people in a meeting and if we have rooms of 50 people whether we can have links between those platforms so that people can listen and talk to each other while streaming?"

She added: "We are changing our thinking completely. You can't do the old school room thing where you had a branch meeting at a school. We can do it in a school setting, but you need a classroom for your digital plans to work. I must tell you it is a bit frustrating, especially where you have places that don't have electricity. What do we do then? Can we still do the same because we need to do this properly? Our team is doing this very diligently. We have to get going by the end of March," she said.

While the ANC has often enjoyed the support of its alliance partners when coming to consolidating a solid election campaign, the South African Communist Party has however in the past threatened to contest elections independently.

In an interview with Independent Media this week, the party has seemingly changed its tune and has vowed to support the ANC.

''We must say that the SACP is not necessarily a narrow electorist party, but it is interested in the question of the exercise of a political party by the working class," SACP first deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said.

He added: " If we feel that the movement is drifting to the right and the working class has to take the brutality of the harsh pre-market capitalist system and liberal economic austerity in our country, the marriage (of the Alliance) will always be tested. It is in that regard that this matter (contesting elections independently) remains on the table. At the moment, the position of the SACP is that we will participate in the elections under the framework of a reconfigured alliance. If that framework is not finalised then there will be no joint elections and the 14th Congress was quite clear about that."

"We are not necessarily a go-at-it-alone kind of movement. If the movement carries the strategic objective for all of us, then we are prepared to participate in the current framework with due consideration of our independent articulation of issues that need to be addressed on behalf of the working class," he said.

Political Bureau

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