/ 6 February 2024

Ramaphosa expected to announce election date at Sona

2023 State Of The Nation Address In South Africa
Pressure is mounting for President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce the widely anticipated elections date during his State of the Nation address. (Photo by Jeffrey Abrahams/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Pressure is mounting for President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce the widely anticipated elections date during his State of the Nation address  (Sona) this week.  

ANC insiders are of the view that Ramaphosa will announce the election date on 8 February but his spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, has remained tight-lipped on the matter, saying only, “We wait for him to announce.”

Political parties face a logistical nightmare caused by not knowing the elections date. The Democratic Alliance (DA) recently sent a memorandum, dated 31 January, to its members stating that its candidates list had to be kept under wraps until the date was announced by Ramaphosa. 

DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille further said in the memorandum: “The federal executive further resolves that no information relating to candidate lists may be discussed with any person and that any such discussion will be considered a breach of the closed meeting policy of the party and may lead to disciplinary action or cessation of membership,” adding that those participating in meetings where lists are considered would be required to sign nondisclosure agreements. 

ActionSA chairperson Michael Beaumont said the party expects Ramaphosa to make an announcement on Thursday during Sona. 

But, he added, the party was “getting word from senior leaders within the IEC [Electoral Commission of South Africa] saying that there are legislative changes that have to take place following the constitutional court judgment about independent candidates”.

The apex court in 2020 declared the Electoral Act unconstitutional and invalid because it did not allow independent candidates to run for elected office. This necessitated an overhaul of the Act, which was signed into law in April 2023. 

IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said that despite the president not announcing the date, the commission was ready to conduct the elections.

The ANC’s secretary general, Fikile Mbalula, has indicated that the party would announce its premier candidates following its manifesto release on 24 February. 

The ANC has been conducting interviews with potential MPs and provincial premiers. 

In January, various political parties contesting this year’s national and provincial elections urged Ramaphosa to use Sona to announce a date for the elections. 

In a previous interview with the M&G, African Transformation Movement (ATM) communications manager Mxolisi Makhubu said the delay in announcing the date prevented political parties from adequately planning for a successful election. 

“As a self-funded party that always tries to reach all our constituents and voter base, we need the timelines to be able to stretch our financial resources accordingly so that we remain as uncaptured as we were entering the 2019 national general elections, but most importantly so that we can successfully collect the mandate from the people and be able to deliver it in the sixth parliament,” he said.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema has also criticised Ramaphosa for the delay. Malema previously said there was no logical reason or excuse for prolonging the election date announcement.

“Ramaphosa must accept that his term, that has been defined by failure, has come to an end and give the nation an election date so it can prepare itself for a future that does not include him,” he said.

The ANC’s national spokesperson, Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri, said this week that the announcement of the election date was the prerogative of the president. “We don’t discuss dates of elections. Even if that were to happen, I suppose that it can happen at the level of national officials. It’s a total purview of the president, otherwise, we are going to be conflating the party and the state.” 

She said the party had taken the position that whenever the proclamation date for the elections was announced, they should fight as if they were going to the elections tomorrow.

In December, Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said Ramaphosa had to consult the IEC when deciding on a date for the elections, as stipulated in the Constitution.

“So we don’t want the president in trouble for violating his oath of office or cabinet influencing his decision to determine the election date, [which] remains the president’s sole prerogative,” she told journalists.

The IEC held its third voter registration over the weekend and said that 564 715 people had registered to vote. 

Political parties crisscrossed the country during the weekend in a bid to get more supporters to register.

The IEC has continuously encouraged potential voters to register through their online portals