ANC welcomes election lifeline, opposition decries ‘unfair advantage’
DA, IFP prepare for battle after IEC’s decision to allow ruling party to register candidates even though it missed deadline
While ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed the decision to allow parties and independents to register for the upcoming local government elections, throwing the ruling party a massive polling lifeline, some opposition parties threaten court action.
The IEC on Monday said it would reopen the registration process for candidates after a Constitutional Court order on Friday that the local government election take place some time from October 27 to November 1 this year.
The apex court further ordered the IEC to, within three days, decide if it was “practically possible” to hold a voter registration weekend to allow voters to register or change their details.
The commission on Monday announced it had taken legal advice on the matter and believed that amending the timetable to reopen nominations was “reasonably necessary in the circumstances”.
It also announced that a voter weekend registration weekend would take place on September 18 and 19.
But the IEC on Monday shot down allegations that its contentious decision showed it was acting in favour of certain political parties. This as the DA and IFP threatened to mount legal battles to oppose the move, accusing the commission of bias, particularly because the move gives the ANC a lifeline after it failed to register candidates with the IEC in more 90 municipalities, more than a third of SA’s 257 municipalities.
To correct this, the ruling party turned to the electoral court to ask for an additional 36 hours to finalise and submit its candidate list, saying if it were not allowed to do so it would lose power, or lose status as official opposition, in dozens of municipalities “without a single vote being cast”.
The party, however, later made an about-turn and withdrew its application.
Speaking at the close of the ANC national executive committee lekgotla on Monday, Ramaphosa welcomed the IEC’s decision, saying it was in line with the constitution and other laws of the republic.
“We welcome the decision of the IEC to declare the weekend of 18 and 19 [September] as registration weekend, and we agree with the IEC that there is an inextricable link between voter registration and the right to stand for public office,” he said.
Ramaphosa said section 19(3) of the constitution provided that “every adult citizen has a right to vote in elections for any legislative body established in terms of the constitution, and to do so in secret; and also to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office”.
“The ANC therefore further welcomes the decision to reopen candidate registration on September 20 and 21. We believe this is in line with the constitutional and legislative prescripts.
“This we welcome. Let us all go out to serve our people and to improve the lives of the people of SA selflessly,” he said.
The IEC shot down the narrative that it was acting in favour of the ruling party.
“It’s unfortunate; we reject it. We are clear that we have taken considerations that have brought us to where we are. It’s not true that we are simply acting out of convenience,” said a commissioner.
IFP national spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the party would explore legal avenues to challenge the move, and questioned the commission’s credibility.
The independence, credibility and integrity of the IEC is now in question. Indeed, it is a sad day for our democracy when we find that our electoral commission, a Chapter 9 institution, has been left sorely wanting.Mkhuleko Hlengwa
“We are vehemently opposed to their stance in granting the ANC a second chance, when back in 2011 the IFP was not granted the same, nor were there any favours done for the NFP in 2016,” he said, in reference to the two parties missing deadlines - for different reasons - in previous polls.
“The independence, credibility and integrity of the IEC is now in question. Indeed, it is a sad day for our democracy when we find that our electoral commission, a Chapter 9 institution, has been left sorely wanting,” said Hlengwa.
DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille expressed similar sentiments, saying her party had also briefed its lawyers to explore the legal route to challenge the decision.
“There was a clear deadline for candidate registration, which the ANC missed. It cannot now demand a second bite at the cherry. This has never been granted before when other parties have requested leeway on an IEC deadline.
“What we saw today gives the ANC an advantage that other parties have never enjoyed. It is a transparent strategy to benefit the ANC, and would go some way to explaining why the ANC withdrew its appeal to the electoral court to have the candidate registration deadline lifted. Why would they have done that if they did not have a fallback position? Now their Plan B has been revealed,” the official opposition said.
IEC CEO Sy Mamabolo said the commission held a consultative meeting with cooperative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in line with the orders of the Constitutional Court and notified her it would be proceeding with a registration weekend.
“The commission has indicated its preference of the election date to the minister who is now considering the matter. It is the commission’s wish that the election date is announced sooner to allow electoral stakeholders to prepare within the short time to November 1,” said Mamabolo.