Local government elections: Dear ANC, look before you leap

Although the story of Henry and Anne took place nearly 500 years ago, it is still relevant for those of who have tried online dating and/or are registered to vote on 1 November.

In 1539, England’s King Henry VIII, in his forties, was, yet again, without a wife. He had finally obtained an annulment from his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon, who was dumped for the grand crime of not producing a male heir, and seduced the Boleyn sisters with disastrous results — for them. His third wife had died on the birthing bed and he found himself alone again. On the advice of Thomas Cromwell, his chief minister, he decided to look for another wife, this time in Germany. The lady in question was Anne of Cleves.

The marriage had political perks, but Henry had to know the princess was a beauty. Verbal reports were glowing — but Henry needed something more, so he dispatched the artist Hans Holbein the Younger, the king’s painter, to Düren to paint portraits of Anne and her younger sister, Amalia, each of whom Henry was considering as his fourth wife.  

In an age in which kings would make marriage decisions based on the beauty of a portrait, artists had real political clout. Holbein, perhaps to save his own neck, painted a portrait so beautiful, Henry became enamoured and the stage was set for a royal wedding. 

With delicate features and adorned in sumptuous colour, the now infamous picture and rave reviews from courtiers made Anne irresistible to Henry. The marriage was agreed on, with Cromwell overseeing the talks, and a marriage treaty was signed. The king agreed to pay a dowry of 100 000 florins to the bride’s brother and the princess set off for England.

Only to be summarily rejected by an old, sickly man — with a mkhaba and ham hock ankles to boot. 

Anne arrived in England on 27 December 1539 and married Henry on 6 January 1540, but after six months, the marriage was declared unconsummated and, as a result, she was not crowned queen consort. After the annulment, Henry gave her a generous settlement, and she was thereafter known as the “King’s Beloved Sister”. She at least managed to stay beneath his notice and lived to see the coronation of Queen Mary I, outliving the rest of Henry’s wives.

Not bad for a woman with “a great personality”, as it were.

Four-hundred-and-eighty-one years later, with court action and ongoing violence threatening to derail the ANC’s candidate selection process for the second time, deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte is taking extra caution to ensure the party registers the correct candidates with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). 

In a communiqué sent to provincial secretaries and provincial coordinators, Duarte ordered that each of them come to the party headquarters at Luthuli House to “sit with the registration teams and go over their lists”.

As of last week Wednesday, Duarte stated that all secretaries and co-ordinators in each province or their designated representative must go over each list from 8.30am until 6pm, as agreed in the secretariat forum.

More than 1 000 branches of the party, about a third in total, have laid formal complaints about the list process being manipulated and the outcomes not being those of their members. Several regions are expected to approach the courts if their disputes are not dealt with. The ANC faces massive potential electoral losses over its failure to meet the deadline to register its local government candidates in 95 municipalities for the impending local government poll.

In the 2016 local government elections, the party was able to scrape together only 53.9% of the votes. In the upcoming local government elections the slide will continue, particularly because the party has failed to submit its lists on time. ANC members are concerned that, even if they get more time to rectify the lists, the adjudication of the complaints will be a laborious process, with some complaints possibly still to flood in, stuck in the post.

Duarte, Lizeka Tandwa reports, has threatened to remove North West interim provincial committee co-ordinator Hlomani Chauke from his position in the structure, claiming that he has misrepresented the candidates list guidelines. 

In a letter seen by the Mail & Guardian, dated 13 September, Duarte writes that the party electoral committee chairperson, former president Kgalema Motlanthe, laid a complaint against Chauke regarding a letter he sent to the provincial structures. 

The ANC, it appears, has fallen into a pothole with which many of its supporters are familiar. If members of the party can’t rely on each other, what about citizens? The country’s fortunes are tied to what happens in the ANC. This is a reality all South Africans must contend with. We cannot rely on word-of-mouth reviews from people we see only on the campaign trail or in the news for matters of corruption. 

Kiri Rupiah & Luke Feltham write The Ampersand newsletter for subscribers. Sign up here for the best local and international journalism handpicked and in your inbox.

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Kiri Rupiah
Kiri Rupiah is the online editor at the Mail & Guardian.
Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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