NEWS ANALYSIS: ANC has no ready remedy for its candidate selection headache
The factional battles in the governing party will complicate the process of drawing up lists ahead of the elections
Selecting candidates ahead of the crucial 2019 national election is not going to be an easy task for the ANC, which is battling to come together six months after its Nasrec conference and with a year to go until it heads to the polls.
It took the party almost a month to finally select a candidate to replace the North West premier following the resignation of Supra Mahumapelo, and even then it was not through a consensus.
Two national executive committee (NEC) meetings, where names for the position were put forward, were unable to come to a decision, forcing the ANC to break the impasse by mandating its national working committee (NWC) to make the final decision.
There is a way to fix this: offer positions on the MP and provincial legislature lists to those who lose out in party provincial structures
This reflects the continued battle for dominance in the ANC between the factions in the mixed leadership elected at the Nasrec conference in 2017.
There is no dominant faction or side calling the shots, which is slowing the party’s decision-making process.
The party is also battling to get its provincial structures in order as infighting prevails and groups of disgruntled members turn to the courts.
Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni says this will not end as long as the slate system ensures a winner-takes-all mentality. This makes it more difficult for the party to put its lists together ahead of the polls, Fikeni says.
Deployment is no longer about capacity but about loyalty, he says. This means there are patronage relationships which foster corruption.
However, there is a way to fix this: offer positions on the MP and provincial legislature lists to those who lose out in party provincial structures.
“Such peace and unity negotiations ought to send a signal … that things such as gatekeeping will be dealt with honestly and won’t be tolerated even if leaders are trying to do this. Then they will know that even the winning faction will not be a winner takes all,” Fikeni says.
The ANC is trying desperately to portray a united front ahead of next year’s election, but the contests in the party structures have intensified and become more difficult to resolve because of a divided NEC.
Mahumapelo resigned as North West premier on May 23, but had to be coerced by the national leadership to do so.
Before this he flip-flopped on this decision. Earlier in May, following violent protests and calls for him to go, Mahumapelo indicated he would leave office but at the 11th hour the provincial executive committee, after a meeting that he chaired, announced he would take a leave of absence rather than resign.
It is understood Mahumapelo withdrew his resignation when he realised he would be replaced by someone aligned to President Cyril Ramaphosa and not one of his loyalists.
Eventually he was convinced and a week later actually resigned, but there was no candidate ready to take over from him.
Ahead of an election, registered political parties contesting the polls must submit lists of their candidates to the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC).
But before the ANC does this, it has to hold a national list conference where the party makes a decision on who will represent it in national and provincial government.
A national list committee is appointed by the NEC which, according to the ANC’s constitution, is responsible for drawing up regulations and procedures to be used in the selection of these candidates.
There is also a provincial list and a candidates committee in each province responsible for compiling lists.
In the end the NEC has to ratify the names put forward for the lists.
But if the party is unable to come to a consensus on one premier candidate, how is it going to do this for all nine provinces and for its MP list?
It is doubtful these problems will be solved by the time the party goes to its list conference, which will make it a protracted process.
And with the way things are going, it could even find this challenged in court.