A stable provincial leadership and the proper application of candidate selection criteria should prevent a repeat of the wave of killings that followed the ANC’s selection processes ahead of the 2016 local government elections.
The party’s provincial leaders also believe that the introduction of improved party dispute resolution structures will stop conflicts over places on the national and provincial lists from turning deadly.
In KwaZulu-Natal, 12 ANC councillors or nominees were killed in the two months ahead of the August 2016 poll, with tensions over council seats exacerbated by the contested result of the November 2015 provincial conference.
The killings escalated after the elections. Premier Willies Mchunu then appointed the Moerane commission to probe the causes of the murders of councillors and senior municipal officials. The commission’s report is to be released in coming weeks.
In an interview this week after a two-day party election workshop, the ANC’s deputy chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal, Mike Mabuyakhulu, said, although the local government selection processes had sparked killings, “we have never seen anybody being killed” in general elections.
“We have never had a major challenge when it comes to general elections, particularly with the selection of candidates for the provincial and national lists,” said Mabuyakhulu.
He said this was partly as a result of the “completely different context” — the election of a “unity” provincial leadership under chairperson Sihle Zikalala, which had created a level of stability that had not existed in the run-up to 2016.
He said the focus was now on cementing that stability and unity at regional and branch level, while setting up the party election structures that would run the campaign for 2019 and the candidate selection process.
“We are honing the efficacy of our ANC processes. We have been learning from the mistakes of the past. We are trying to make the processes tighter in the sense that the criteria and precepts that the ANC has set down will be applied,” he said.
“If there is anyone who is left with a sense of unhappiness, they must be allowed to use ANC structures to air their grievances.”
Mabuyakhulu said the sitting leadership was “going to be very open- minded. We want to apply the rules and the criteria fairly.”
Mabuyakhulu said the recent arrests by the Hawks of suspects in a number of political murders in the province gave hope that progress was being made in bringing killers to justice. Successful prosecutions, he said, would also assist in ending the culture of impunity.
The ANC would “factor in” the recommendations of the Moerane commission, which would affect the party and how it conducted its leadership selection processes.
He said the leadership was assessing the performances of provincial departments and municipalities to address issues of service delivery ahead of the elections. “We are particularly concerned about the number of service delivery protests and their violent nature. We want to play a proactive role in terms of intervening in communities as early as we can. We don’t believe there is any need for communities that are raising genuine issues to be violent, to destroy, to burn,” he said.