/ 29 March 2019

Mbalula says ANC lists can still change

The ANC wants to push ahead with shifting Eskom to the mineral resources and energy ministry. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The ANC has one last shot at culling dodgy candidates from its candidate lists in the objections process to be launched by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) and the party’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting,starting Monday.

The NEC will discuss terms of reference for its integrity committee, which would ostensibly empower the structure to look into questionable candidates and potentially ask them to step aside, says ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula.

But this rests on whether the divided NEC agrees to the terms of reference, which were recommended by the integrity commission itself. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s side was dealt a blow in the list process, seen to be dominated by the faction aligned to secretary general Ace Magashule.

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The party has come under fire for adding people implicated in allegations of corruption to its national list of candidates to Parliament, amid Ramaphosa’s attempts to “renew and reform” the party. These include Nomvula Mokonyane, Bathabile Dlamini and Malusi Gigaba, who all have court judgements against them. 

READ MORE: Lists scandal will haunt Ramaphosa

The provincial lists are also littered with questionable characters. The ANC is being threatened with court action over the addition of certain candidates in two provinces so far. 

Mbalula told the Mail & Guardian the ANC had “reflected” on the matter and that the integrity commission’s terms of reference will be processed.

“That [the terms of reference] gives them powers to call anyone and look at the case meticulously and then make pronouncements — and certain pronouncements and steps they may recommend will mean individuals getting out of the list,” he said.

Members of the ANC in North West this week wrote to the party through their attorneys warning that they will take the ANC to court if it failed to amend the provincial lists. The members alleged that the lists had been tampered with and did not reflect the will of party structures. The ANC has until Monday to rectify the situation.

Members in the Free State are also threatening to take the party to court if the final lists contain individuals they claim the structures had rejected.

Vusi Tshabalala, a Free State mayor who was removed after community protests and through a no-confidence vote by ANC members and who is seen as a Magashule ally, has now made it on to the list to the provincial legislature, at spot number six.

“Yes, I know Tshabalala’s case. I was there, I led the march on 1 May last year protesting and he was removed [but] now he has come back,” Mbalula said. “And this is not the only case …it is some of the cases that we will have to deal with decisively, but informed by the processes in the organisation.”

The IEC is opening its objection process to the list on Friday March 29, although the lists were submitted by political parties more than two weeks ago.

Mbalula said: “It is not too late. It is not cast in stone that your appearance on the list means your issues cannot be dealt with in as far as how they affect the health of the ANC.”

He said the NEC will sit on Monday and “check whether or not” the terms of reference can be adopted so that the party can give the integrity commission the required teeth to do its work.

“There is no better way to deal with these issues,” said Mbalula. “Not the officials, not the NWC [national working committee], not the NEC qualifies [to do this]. The integrity commission has got to look at us objectively and follow the process meticulously, investigate, look at the matters and say: ‘But look, you as a person, your continued staying in the list, despite the fact that you are popular with the structures, it doesn’t help us on the following reasons.’”

Individuals could then be given a chance to respond or step aside.

The IEC has said that candidates cannot withdraw from the lists submitted by parties, nor can parties amend the lists they submitted.

But it added that objections can be lodged against candidates and if a candidate’s nomination did not comply with the dictates of section 27 of the Constitution, then the commission or the electoral court may allow a party to substitute a candidate and reorder the names on the party list.

The ANC veterans also came out this week to call on those implicated in wrongdoing to step aside.

The veterans called on Ramaphosa and the ANC’s leadership structures to “immediately refer the lists to the integrity commission” and allow the structure to “interact” with those whose nomination “may be negatively perceived by the electorate”. The integrity body should then call on those individuals to step aside.

The party elders also called on all candidates on the lists who were implicated by various commissions to step aside, in the “interests of the credibility of the ANC”.

Integrity commission chairman George Mashamba told the M&G that the structure was ready to process any request it received from the NEC. He said the terms of reference had been submitted to the party’s highest decision-making body, but that the structure would wait to see whether the terms of reference are approved at the meeting.

But the list process is not the only factor worrying the party ahead of the May 8 polls. Service delivery, unemployment, the electricity crisis, the fuel price, value-added tax as well as allegations of corruption are all factors the ANC has been addressing in its “wall-to-wall” ground campaign currently under way.

Polls have placed support for the ANC nationally between 55% and 61%.

Mbalula says the polls in the public domain largely reflect the party’s own research.

He pointed out a difference between the party’s campaign this year compared with the past two elections.

“The public polls are not far from our internal [polls]. The polls have shaped our strategy.In the last election polls almost didn’t count. Now our campaign is informed by research because to us it is the science of the campaign. The campaign itself is the art. You can’t ignore the science,” he said.

The ANC largely ignored research in 2014 that showed the Nkandla saga and perceptions about corruption were likely to dent its support. In the end, the party’s Gauteng province took a severe knock, losing more than 10 percentage points.

Mbalula says the ANC is focusing its attention on both Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal — the two provinces with the largest registered voter base.

Mbalula, who appeared before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture amid the gruelling elections campaign, says he has little time to destress amid his election work. His overriding fear is potential loss and this keeps his hand on the campaign gears day and night.

Whether this will be enough to sway a politically exhausted electorate remains to be seen