Durban - With each passing day of Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) runs a very real risk of exposure that could create massive despondency within the electorate.
And, added KwaZulu-Natal-based political analyst Lukhona Mnguni, although its voters “love” the governing party, they are also ready to “punish” it at next year’s polls for complicity in “state capture” - a term referring to the alleged kleptocratic elements that mushroomed during former President Jacob Zuma’s term.
Many of those involved in Zuma’s alleged cabal still hold influential positions in government and the ANC.
The ANC will also need to tackle the slow, yet seemingly endemic apathy of its political support base if it wants to maintain its majority. The governing party has lost votes at every election since 2009 when Zuma was first elected into office.
Over and above this concern is a Constitutional Court ruling that ordered the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to capture addresses for all voters on the voters’ roll.
At the time of that 2016 ruling, only 34% of registered voters had provided addresses. This has since increased to 82% of 26 million voters. However, the unaddressed voters still account for 1.6 million people, who are predominantly rural-based and likely to be ANC voters.
“Seen this way, the ANC could limp into the 2019 elections and a coalition government [would] be necessary. However, if there is no bombshell on the path of the ANC in the Zondo Commission, then there is a great possibility that the ANC will lose from 62% downwards but remain above 51%,” Mnguni told the African News Agency (ANA).
Various polls from IPSOS to the Institute of Race Relations have placed the ANC in front and above the magic 50% mark to form a government without a coalition partner. The final challenge will be making sure the IEC is deemed credible.
“The question on readiness this time around arises out of the IEC being unable to clean up the voters’ roll and capture addresses for all voters as per the constitutional court judgment,” said Mnguni.
“In this respect, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s [perceived] pronouncement [that elections would take place by May] was ill-advised as he too needs to be guided by that decision of the court,” said Mnguni.
Ramaphosa made the adlib comment at the unveiling of a statue of former president Nelson Mandela at the United Nations in New York last month.
The IEC has asked the constitutional court to waiver the need for an address of all voters to beyond the 2019 election. The court’s decision is pending.
Other challenges facing the IEC include the readiness of voting districts, the possibility of violent service delivery protests denying voting stations from opening, and the need to be seen “actively and speedily resolving grievances and disputes as and when they arise”, said Mnguni.
“Lastly, there is a contentious issue that the IEC seems to appoint a lot of South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) affiliated teachers as presiding officers in various voting stations. This creates great suspicion as Sadtu is affiliated to Cosatu and the latter is in alliance with the ANC. This is seen as indirect political influence over the integrity of the electoral process.”
Ramaphosa at the helm of the ANC would help the party’s election campaign, but petrol price increases, high food prices and job losses were tangible and would work against the party, added Mnguni.
The IEC told ANA that until Ramaphosa pronounced an election date, they could only state that the time period to hold the 2019 elections would be between “7 May and 5 August”.
“Planning for an election commences typically 24 months before the date of the election. In this regard the IEC is on track with its plans to deliver elections in 2019,” said Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo.
He said the IEC had already started with the “procurement of electoral materials” and it was in the process of recruiting and training temporary staff to manage its network of 22 933 registration and voting stations across the country.
He admitted that the IEC’s greatest challenge was to obtain addresses for all voters.
The tenure of Commissioner Terry Tselane comes to an end in November, and the National Assembly recently approved the recommendation to appoint Judge Dhayanithie Pillay, Dr Nomsa Masuku and Mr Mosotho Moepya as new Commissioners, said Mamabolo.
At least 563 political parties have registered to participate in next year's election. Only 100 of these are active in various legislative bodies in the country.