Johannesburg - For the first time since our democratic dispensation 1994, thousands of South Africans could go to the polls without an ANC candidate on some ballot papers and there are some rumblings among the voting public.
This comes after the ruling party announced that it had not registered candidates in at least 35 municipalities in the upcoming local government elections.
The problem was attributed to “glitches” with the system being used by the Electoral Commission of SA during the candidate registration process.
The party is now seeking to approach the Electoral Court to reopen the process.
This week ANC employees countrywide took to the streets in protest of the party’s non-payment of salaries over a three-month period, adding further woes to the organisation's problems.
It seems while some political parties expect some gains from the ANC’s misfortunes, the UDM has come out in support of the ANC application albeit for a different reason.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said he will join the ruling party in its application as a friend of the court because his party has been through a similar experience before which became disastrous.
“We objected, we were ignored. Capturing candidates was a disastrous process for the UDM. We pleaded for time; we were refused. We will join as friends of the court as the ANC goes to Electoral Court to reopen capturing,” said Holomisa.
But the parties who have met the ANC’s application with some resistance have even accused it of lying to South Africans after its Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte, briefed the media late on Monday evening and claimed the party had met the deadline and submitted the names of 10 000 candidates.
And yet the party followed that announcement with another briefing where Duarte indicated that “the process of registering ANC candidates with the IEC experienced major challenges on Monday, 23 August 2021”.
“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; data already entered was voided and had to be re-entered,” Duarte said.
“The ultimate impact of this is that in around 35 municipalities, voters will be prevented from voting for the ANC as a party, or in others for a ward candidate of their choice. This will have a massive impact on citizens, political parties and society generally,” Duarte added.
Action SA president Herman Mashaba has accused the ANC of abusing “us as South Africans and making a mockery of our Constitution”.
“Jessie Duarte held a press conference saying she had submitted the names of 10 000 councillors. The ANC said they have registered in all the wards. Why all of a sudden have they failed to register in some of the wards? In all honesty, the ANC is not ready to face the voters,” said Mashaba.
He went further to claim the court challenge was a ploy by the ANC to avoid elections and achieve what it wanted in 2019.
“In 2019, Ace Magashule wanted to suggest that local elections should be joined with the national elections in 2024. It’s nothing new, it started even before Covid-19. The ANC is scared of what happened in 2016, and this year will be something else, it will make what happened in 2016 when they lost the metros look like child’s play,” said Mashaba.
He added that internal party disputes should not hinder South Africa’s rights.
“Our right to vote has nothing to do with internal ANC politics. Also, if the ANC can’t run its organisation, how do we expect it to run the country?”
It seems some political parties see an opportunity to grow stronger in the absence of the ruling party at the polls but admit this could change the face of local government for years to come.
The DA, Cope and ACDP said yesterday if the ANC failed in its bid in the Electoral Court to reopen registration, this would change the face of local government and allow other parties to contest in the more than 30 municipalities without the ANC after many years.
DA representative in the IEC Werner Horn said the IEC should not allow the ANC to change the rulebook.
The IEC had prevented the IFP and National Freedom Party from contesting the elections in 2011 and 2016 respectively after they failed to meet certain conditions for the elections.
“The IEC cannot bend to the will of the ANC and must therefore oppose this frivolous application,” said Horn.
ACDP leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe said if the ANC did not take part in the elections it would be a blessing in disguise for the voters in the 30 municipalities.
“Actually, what the ANC is doing now is a blessing in disguise for all political parties. It will be a great opportunity for smaller parties. For coalitions it will be easier for smaller parties. It will work better without the ANC. I don’t think it will be difficult for smaller parties to form coalitions,” said Meshoe.
Cope national spokesperson Dennis Bloem said the absence of the ANC in the polls will bring change in local government as there will no longer be a dominant party.
“If the ANC does not succeed in the Electoral Court there will be coalitions in municipalities. It will change the face of local government if the Electoral Court rejects their application because they won’t participate in the elections. All municipalities have collapsed because of corruption, incompetence and cadre deployment,” said Bloem.
Political analyst Tinyiko Maluleke said signs of decay are beginning to manifest in the ANC and its inability to pay workers is a symptom of decay just like its inability to register for the elections properly and on time.
“Both are manifestations of decay. Rampant corruption has brought us to this point where we are now discussing corruption day in and day out at the Zondo Commission. This too, is the symptom of the decay in the ANC”.
However, political analyst Sanusha Naidu said the ANC’s failure to register candidates in 35 municipalities doesn’t make a difference or impact on the voter.
“I don’t think it makes a difference on whether or not people would come to vote because at the end of the day, if you look at the calculation of the last election, the registered number of the voters was probably 20 million.
“But the number of people who came out to vote was less. People register but they don’t come to vote for various reasons. It does not make a difference at all. There’s no correlation, people are asking questions about what is the actuality to vote.”
Asked if this might be an opportunity for the opposition parties, she said: “The opposition parties are probably more reactive towards the ANC and not necessarily positioning themselves. Opposition parties focused more on discrediting the ANC and using the ANC’s flaws against it. They were not able to present themselves as alternatives,” she said.
University of Western Cape political analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu said if the ANC was not allowed to take part in the elections in the 30 municipalities it would force parties to get into coalitions.
However, the other factor could be voter apathy, which will make it difficult for parties to govern those municipalities.
Professor Bheki Mngomezulu also said if the ANC does not succeed in court it would allow either the DA or EFF to take over in these municipalities. But they would not have a majority and this would force them into coalitions with other smaller parties.
“From where I am standing in the event the Electoral Court does not rule in favour of the ANC it would allow the DA or EFF to take over. If the DA and EFF will compete with each other they will not have a majority, whoever wins will form a coalition with smaller parties,” said Mngomezulu.
“As far as the general electorate I foresee voter apathy, in the event the ANC does not have any candidates they would rather not vote,” he said.
“In Africa we are not ready for these coalitions, that would mean that coalitions would have a short lifespan,” he added.