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ANC members take legal action over council selection disputes

A letter from lawyers sent to the ANC’s national list committee (NLC) is the first sign that the ruling party faces court action over its handling of the selection of candidates for the 1 November local government elections.

Nine ANC members in the North West’s Greater Taung municipality have sent a letter to the NLC threatening to go to court should the party not respond to their demands by the end of the day. 

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Hendrck Tladi, Joyce Malepe, Tlapedi Matshwe, Boitumelo Gezane, Kegomoditshwe Mamapula, Masego Lepedi, Nosi Ntasi, Obakeng Balebanye and Toloki Tlhanganyane have secured representation from the Motshabi and Associates law firm. 

In the letter dated 15 September, the lawyers said with the exception of Tlhanganyane, their clients were nominated as proportional representation (PR) candidates by various wards, which duly submitted their nominations to the Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati district’s interim regional committee (IRC). 

Only Tladi and Gezane were interviewed by the IRC while the other nominees were advised over the phone that there was no need to interview them because they were already serving as councillors, according to the letter.

“Our clients have recently discovered that the IRC has excluded their names from the list of PR councillors that has been submitted to the provincial list committee. Tladi lodged a dispute with the IRC, provincial list committee [in] your office. He was then advised that his dispute will be attended to after the constitutional court decides on the urgent application lodged by the IEC to postpone the local government elections. The dispute remains unresolved despite the judgment of the constitutional court which was handed down on all 3 September,” the letter reads.

The applicants claim that Tlhanganyane was nominated by a branch general meeting on 25 June alongside three other candidates. On 14 August residents held a meeting where candidates were introduced, with the community introducing three new candidates who would later withdraw their nominations. According to the lawyers, Tlhanganyane remained a candidate. 

The ANC released a list of set guidelines in May, which stated that residents would have the last say on who was elected as a ward councillor. 

Branches would nominate a maximum of six candidates for PR candidate lists.

“The first 10% of the required list should be kept as is in terms of the nominations received unless a nominee is excluded for reasons of conduct or track record … Once the municipal draft lists are drawn up, the district list for directly elected councillors should be drawn up from good candidates who could not be accommodated in the local council list,” the guidelines state.

The extended PEC may not remove and replace anyone but may insert someone higher up in the list if 80% supported the move. The PEC should formally adopt the list without changes.

“Regrettably the community of Ntswarahatshe protested and burnt the ballot box because they suspected that the votes were rigged. The IRC met the interim branch committee of Ward 2 and decided that they will arrange a new date for community elections,” the lawyers said, adding that their client Tlhlanganyane was disappointed when the name of another ANC member appeared on the list compiled by the IRC as candidate ward 2 of Greater Taung Municipality without any community elections having taken place. 

“Tlhanganyane has duly lodged a dispute with the IRC, PLC and your office but the dispute remains unresolved. Our clients have collectively instructed us to send this letter to your esteemed office and demanded … that you urgently correct this injustice by including their names on the list of PR councilors so that the will of the wards must be respected.”

“In as far as ward 2, Tlhanganyane requests that your office arrange a new date for community elections so that the community should be given an opportunity to elect their preferred candidates instead of the IRC appointing a candidate not elected by the community. We await your response by close of business on Thursday, 16 September failing which, our client will seek relief in the appropriate court of law,” the letter added.

On Wednesday, a bus full of ANC members arrived at the ANC headquarters at Luthuli House as members from Limpopo and Gauteng protested over the same issue.

The ANC’s candidate lists have resulted in hundreds of disputes, with some members resorting to violence during branch meetings. KwaZulu-Natal has been hardest hit by the violence, which has also affected the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte sent a sharply worded letter to North West coordinator Hlamane Chauke, accusing him of misrepresenting the council selection guidelines. 

In the letter, Duarte threatened to suspend Chauke from his role in the interim structure and instructed the national executive committee (NEC) members in the province to investigate whether he was suitable to be the provincial coordinator. 

Chauke is also at odds with the provincial list committee, which called for a re-run of the candidate selection process after it found that some lists had been manipulated. Chauke declined the order and instead pointed a finger at the list committee, telling the Mail & Guardian that some people wanted to manipulate the process.

One of the applicants who spoke to the M&G said many ANC members believed the process was abused by regional and provincial leaders. 

“If they don’t come back to us today we don’t have any other option but to go to court. The ANC guidelines are clear. The NEC did not make a mistake. The people who failed are the regional and provincial leaders. The regions and provinces did not want to follow the guidelines,” Tladi said.  

The M&G previously reported that Duarte was taking extra caution to ensure the party registered the correct candidates with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). 

In a communique sent to provincial secretaries and provincial coordinators, she ordered that each come to Luthuli House to “sit with the registration teams and go over their lists”.

The secretaries invited to Luthuli House on Wednesday are from the Free State, North West and Mpumalanga. Those from Gauteng, Limpopo and the Western Cape will be at the headquarters on Thursday and on Friday those from the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape will take their turn.

The move comes after the ANC bungled its IEC registration when it failed to submit candidates in 93 municipalities for the local government elections that were initially scheduled for 27 October but have now been pushed out slightly to 1 November.

The IEC has reopened the candidates registration process after the constitutional court rejected the commission’s application to postpone the elections to February on the grounds that the Covid-19 pandemic would render them not free and fair if held this year.

Voter registration is set for 18 and 19 September while outstanding party candidates may still be registered on 20 and 21 September.

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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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