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ANC withdraws urgent electoral court application to reopen candidates’ registration

After earlier filing an urgent application with the electoral court for a 36-hour  extension on a deadline to submit a full list of local government candidates to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), the ruling ANC is now withdrawing the bid.

According to party sources, the ANC has opted to instead wait on a ruling by the Constitutional Court, expected soon, on the IEC’s own application to postpone the elections scheduled for 27 October, to next February. 

If the apex court agreed to this, that would make the ANC’s list conundrums disappear.

In the urgent application to the electoral court earlier on Tuesday, the ruling party had blamed Covid-19 lockdown regulations and a technical glitch in its systems for its failure to meet a deadline to submit its candidates list to the IEC. It sought 36 more hours to register its candidates in key municipalities. 

The legal bid came after the ANC failed to convince the IEC to reopen its registration processes on 24 August, with the commission saying this would leave too little time to print the 78-million ballots that must be delivered to 23 121 voting stations in time for the local government elections, which are currently scheduled for 27 October.

While ANC national spokesperson could not be reached for comment on the decision to withdraw the application, party sources told the Mail & Guardian that the ANC made the call because it did not expect a favourable outcome.

In the affidavit that the ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte had filed to the court, she argued that despite the IEC being informed that the party had faced challenges with registration, “the commission still failed to act in the manner that would rectify the position to ensure that the elections would be free and fair”. 

“It is the ANC’s [position] that if it provided at least 36 hours to complete its submission on the CNS system, this will not cause serious prejudice to the commission or any other party participating in the election nor will it seriously affect the commission’s ability to deliver the 78-million ballots to 23 121 voting stations,” she said, adding that the municipal elections would not be affected by the “minor” extension.

The ANC had argued that the municipal election timetable set by the IEC threatened its right to contest the elections. It wanted the court to direct the IEC to amend its election timetable and provide for an extension period of 36 hours, or a time deemed by the court as just and equitable, within which the ANC and any other affected party may submit candidate lists and make the requisite deposits.

According to the ANC’s application, part of the IEC’s refusal to reopen registration is due to the party’s failure to pay deposits for some of its candidates. 

The ANC had also requested that, should it not be permitted to complete the submission of its candidate list, it be able to pay the additional deposits that may later become payable. According to Duarte’s affidavit, the commission holds the view that it has no power to condone noncompliance. 

“The commission, however, has accepted that where the ANC non-submission of party lists in respect of certain municipalities has resulted in certain unallocated surpluses in respect of those municipalities, the commission may relocate that amount to cover the resultant shortfalls for properly nominated ward candidates in the affected municipalities,” she said.

The Mail & Guardian has previously reported on complaints from ANC branches that the party system of selecting people for its council candidate lists at branch general meetings was flawed. 

This week, ANC branches aligned with the radical economic transformation (RET) faction in the party staged a sit-in at the KwaZulu-Natal provincial headquarters in protest against the removal of a number of their preferred candidates from the list.

Some were removed in terms of the party’s step-aside regulations regarding people facing criminal charges, but in other cases, the first choice nominees were not confirmed by the province’s list committee.

ANC members from ward 101 in Cato Manor said their choice for councillor, Siyabonga Mkhize, had received 309 votes at the nominations meeting. But when he reported at the Moses Mabhida stadium to sign his nomination form, he found that Siyabonga Sibisi, the branch’s third-placed choice who received 13 votes, had been chosen instead. The news sparked the protest by members of about 10 branches.

During a media briefing on Tuesday, 31 August, ANC KwaZulu-Natal secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli said that almost all of its candidates in Zululand had not been registered, which would ensure that the ANC would lose its power should elections go ahead as scheduled in October. 

In the Eastern Cape 703 out of 710 wards registered successfully. In the North West 361 of 403 did so, while in the Northern Cape 220 of 232 municipalities registered with 25 out of 33 the candidates registered in the Sol Plaatje local municipality. 

In the Western Cape, none of the ANC’s proportional representative (PR) councillors was registered. 

Free State: 

  • 19 out of 35 registered — Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality 
  • 19 out of 36 registered — Matjhabeng Local Municipality 
  • 12 out of 20 registered — Dihlabeng local municipality
  • 16 out of 22 registered — Moqkaka local municipality
  • 16 out of 20 registered — Ngwathe local municipality

 Gauteng: 

  • 22 out of 28 registered — Marafong City (no PR councillor registered ) 
  • 98 out of 112 registered — eKurhuleni 
  • 95 out of 107 registered — Tshwane 
  • 12 out of 15 registered — Midvaal
  • 129 out of 135 registered — Johannesburg 

Mpumalanga: 

  • 20 out of 29 registered — Steve Tshwete local municipality
  • 29 out of 45 registered — City of Mbombela
  • 29 out of 33 registered — Nkomazi local municipality
  • 29 out of 32 registered — Govan Mbeki local municipality 

In Limpopo, the ANC failed to register PR candidates in nine municipalities including the   Ephraim Mogale; Bela Bela, Mogalakwena; Lephalale; Makhuduthamaga; Fetagomo Tubatse; Elias Motsoaledi; and Sikhukhune local municipalities. 

  • 13 out of 31 registered — Greater Giyani
  • 15 out of 30 registered — Greater Letaba
  • 16 out of 36 registered — Greater Tzaneen
  • 11 out of 19 registered — Ba-Phalaborwa
  • 7 out of 17 registered — Ephraim Mogale

In KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC failed to register PR councillors in all but three municipalities including Nqutu in the Umzinyathi district municipality, as well as KwaDukuza and the Ndwedwe local municipality. 

In her affidavit, Duarte had argued that the effects of the lockdown regulations imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic restricted the party’s ability to properly prepare and finalise the candidate lists in the three weeks it was afforded. 

She argued that the IEC has conceded in its own application to the Constitutional Court that it is incapable of ensuring free, fair and safe elections in October, instead asking for a postponement to early next year.

“Notwithstanding the concession, the commission persists with holding political parties and candidates to the election timetable it has published. In other words, the commission has all but lost hope in saving the situation but nonetheless compels political parties and candidates to adhere to the election timetable,” she said.

Duarte contended that the elections timetable doomed not just political parties to failure, but the entire country, characterising it as ‘irrational’. 

The deputy secretary general also cited the apartheid regime, which gave the right to vote exclusively to white South Africans, and argued that political parties and candidates must have the ability to compete with one another on relatively equal terms and without undue hindrance or obstacle.

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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