The ruling ANC on Monday lauded the effective lifeline it received from the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to register more candidates for this year’s local government elections after missing an earlier deadline.
The party also trumpeted the “affordable” roll-out of a basic income grant to combat poverty.
ANC and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who delivered the closing statement after the party’s weekend lekgotla, also urged law enforcement officers to press on with arresting and “bringing to book” those alleged to have instigated the violent looting and destruction that rocked the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces in July.
The violence followed on from what was initially a protest by supporters of former president Jacob Zuma who were angry that he was jailed for contempt of court.
On Monday, 6 September, Ramaphosa welcomed the medical parole granted to Zuma the day before, and said the organisation wished him well.
He said his government would strengthen the intelligence and law enforcement agencies to prevent a recurrence of the violence.
“Those that are responsible for the organising, coordinating and inciting this violence must still be brought to book. Our priority is to ensure that we do not allow such criminal behaviour to recur,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the ANC lekgotla had discussed further government support for people living in poverty, after the country’s unemployment rate shot up to a record 34.4% of the labour force in the second quarter of 2021, or 7.8-million jobless people.
“Subject to long-term affordability, serious consideration, the lekgotla said, should be given to extending further support to the unemployed and those who are structurally marginalised,” Ramaphosa said.
“[This is to be done] possibly through the extension of the Covid-19 special relief of disaster grant, targeted food poverty-line support, or, even, [the government] should consider a basic income grant.”
Last week, the ANC was in disarray after it failed to register its candidates in 93 municipalities for the local government elections that were initially scheduled for 27 October.
However, on Monday the IEC announced that it would reopen the registration of candidates. This comes after the Constitutional Court rejected the commission’s application to postpone the vote to next February on the grounds that the Covid-19 pandemic would otherwise render it not free and fair. The local government elections will happen between 27 October and 1 November, the ConCourt ordered, but the IEC may now hold voter registration drives. The IEC announced it would hold a voter registration weekend on 18 and 19 September. Party candidates may still be registered on 20 and 21 September.
Reacting to the IEC’s announcement, Ramaphosa said the ANC “welcomes the decision to reopen candidate registration on 20 and 21 September. We believe this is in line with the constitution and legislative prescripts”.
In his wide-ranging speech, Ramaphosa also urged telecommunications companies and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to find a solution that would allow for the release of much-needed spectrum for the country to improve its digital economy.
Spectrum, the radio frequencies used to transmit information over the airwaves, has not been allocated for almost 10 years. Telecommunications companies Telkom and MTN are locked in out-of-court negotiations with Icasa, which had wanted to auction the spectrum for R8-billion.
Ramaphosa appealed to the regulator and the companies to reach an agreement as soon as possible.
“Enabling the universal access to broadband should be the approach to the release of the spectrum and other digital technology [to ensure] the development of the digital economy that has proven to be beneficial to a number of economies around the world; that is inclusive and sustainable in our country,” he said.
“Government must find mechanisms to fast-track [the] ‘South Africa Connect’ project in a cost-effective manner.”