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The ANC has begun urgent weekend talks after the Constitutional Court ordered local government elections must proceed on time.

The decision against a bid to stall voting until 2022 means the ANC must find another remedy for its failure to register candidates by the cut-off time. All the party can hope for now is another window for the process.

On Friday afternoon, the Constitutional Court ordered the elections must take place between Wednesday October 27 and Monday November 1, as mandated by the constitution.

By the time the order was issued the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) had begun a series of weekend talks. The sessions will be dominated by the Constitutional Court ruling as well as the party’s finances, after a cash crunch made it unable to pay its own staff on time.

While the apex court has yet to provide reasons for its decision, political analysts believe it is bad news for the governing party.

Political analyst Sanush Naidu wonders what solution the party will develop now a delay is off the table. “What does it do in terms of opening its candidate list? I think that’s going to be top of the agenda at the NEC meeting,” she said.

“This is really quite an indictment on the party for being so caught up in its own kind of self-destruction,” she said, pointing out that the rise of provincial structures in the ANC since 2007 was central to the party's instability.

In the ANC’s support of the IEC’s bid to postpone elections it argued the electoral body had insufficient time to prepare for free and fair elections due to the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown.

Opposition parties are expected to capitalise on the ANC’s failure to register its proportional representation candidates in the country’s major metros, including Ethekwini, Tshwane and Cape Town.

The DA has already announced five mayoral candidates to contest the country’s metros, where coalitions are once again expected to take centre stage. In 2016, its mayoral candidates won Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. The DA had been on the campaign trail for a while now and is set to launch its manifesto in September.

“Covid is going to be with us for a long time. Given the vaccination rates in SA we can’t put our lives and our democratic processes on hold waiting for the virus to leave,” said DA leader John Steenhuisen.

EFF secretary-general, Marshall Dlamini earlier told Business Day that although the party is contesting elections scheduled for October 27, the polls will not be free and fair. The party has registered candidates in all 4,468 wards countywide, while its manifesto launch is scheduled for Saturday September 26. Dlamini insists the party will not scale back campaigning and does not expect its supporters attending the launch to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

IFP national spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the party has been preparing for the local elections “by ensuring that we adhere to the existing IEC timeline and by meeting all deadlines such as that for the submission of candidate lists”.

Hlengwa said the party is ready for the elections and “all IFP structures will be galvanised into action” now that there is certainty. The party called for elections to be spread over three days to mitigate the risk of the spread of Covid-19, especially in hotspots.

Good party secretary-general Brett Herron welcomed the court’s decision. “The order addresses the unlawful exclusion of those South Africans who are entitled to vote,” Herron said. Good was eager to compete in 45 municipalities across five provinces, he added.

The Constitutional Court also set aside a proclamation by minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma that voting should take place on October 27, finding it unconstitutional and invalid.

In the absence of the court’s reasons for its decisions, some analysts have been cautious in their remarks. University of Cape Town law Professor Pierre de Vos wants to know what the minority thought. “At least the majority found a way to say the election must go ahead because they were asked to make a decision in a way that suggests they would be to blame for a bad election.”

He is of the view the order does not open a back door for political parties to review their candidate lists. “They cannot really change the timetable, which is important,” he said.

The court gave the IEC until Monday September 6 to establish if it was practically possible to hold a voters’ registration weekend before October 27. In the event it was not feasible, Dlamini-Zuma must issue a proclamation on or after Friday September 10 allowing for registration at municipal offices before October 27. 




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