South Africa

2021 LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS

ANC sets new guidelines for selecting municipal candidates

ANC sets new guidelines for selecting municipal candidates
Joel Netshitenzhe said the ANC should elect leaders who come from the best in the community and who have good ethics and are academically qualified. (Photo: Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection) Photo: Joel Netshitenzhe (Photo by Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection)

Aspiring ANC councillors who are subject to court or disciplinary processes could be allowed to run for local government elections if they are passed by the relevant committee, according to the party’s draft guidelines for candidate selection. These also stipulate what is expected of ANC councillors where the party is in opposition.

With about a year to go before the local government elections, the ANC is circulating its final draft of rules for local government candidate selection for members to discuss. The 17-page document proposes selection criteria that would see only those who possess the qualities outlined in the party’s 2001 document titled “Through the Eye of a Needle” – leaders who are ethical, ideological and qualified – able to run on the ANC ticket.

The guidelines reflect the need for the ANC to become increasingly competitive, as its majority lead has been declining in each election since 2004. For the first time the party will announce all its mayoral candidates before the elections, as the DA and the EFF have been doing. The ANC also now stipulates how it would like to see its councillors behave in places where the party is in opposition. 

In previous years the ANC’s selection of list and especially ward candidates for local government elections has led to violence – and fatalities – in wards where the party has been divided, in some cases so much so that parallel branches exist. The document appears to try to address this, as well as the decline in support for the party in some areas, which saw it lose control of the Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela metros in 2016.

ANC veteran Joel Netshitenzhe warned at a webinar hosted by the Andrew Mlangeni branch in Gauteng on Sunday that 2016 “will be a Sunday school picnic” compared with the outcome of next year’s elections, as well as the subsequent national elections in 2024, if the party doesn’t “renew the organisational integrity and legitimacy of the ANC in the eyes of the people”. 

He said the party should elect leaders who come from the best in the community and who have good ethics and are academically qualified. “When one raises the issue of dealing with corruption, it is not because we are against any individual,” he said. He added that the party’s Luthuli House headquarters should use clear communication to deal with those within who call themselves the RET forces, but who use the slogan of “radical economic transformation” in an effort to defend themselves from criminal prosecution for corruption. 

According to the ANC’s draft document, candidate selection for the elections will also involve a screening exercise disqualifying those who have been found guilty of “any offence that casts doubt on their suitability to represent the ANC”. This could have been either through an ANC disciplinary process, or at a disciplinary hearing in government or any other place of employment, or in a court of law. But there is an exception. 

“If a candidate is involved in one of the above legal processes where no outcome has yet been reached, for offences related to violence, corruption or matters that may bring the ANC into disrepute, the Provincial List Committee should consider all the facts and interview the candidate,” the document states. They would then have to be “carefully screened” and all facts should be transparently presented and carefully considered by the committee. Those excluded by these processes have a right to appeal to the party’s national list committee or electoral committee, and any other ANC structures would also have the right to appeal against the inclusion of any such candidate they might not deem suitable. 

The party also outlines what it expects from councillors who are in office in local governments where the ANC is in opposition. The document states that the ANC “respects the democratic outcomes of elections” and will not seek to sabotage the work of government “at the expense of the people”. 

The candidate selection process provides for an “open community vote”, using ballot papers, following a community meeting where candidates should all answer the same four questions (around what they consider pressing issues and why people should vote for them) as well as three questions from the floor. The guidelines also outline safe Covid-19 practices during this process, which is, according to the time-frames stated, expected to unfold in March. 

In councils where the ANC is in opposition, it expects its councillors to push for spending in delivery in ANC wards and to claim such delivery as a victory where the party does succeed. They should “play the role of a constructive opposition” by supporting programmes and budgets that reflect ANC policies, and “propose constructive alternatives to those that do not”.

They should also do their oversight work and focus on service delivery, “not petty political point-scoring”. Community meetings and ward committees to ensure that the municipality delivers are in order, but councillors should “avoid resorting to destructive protests that may result in the destruction of municipal property” or conflict with the police. 

ANC councillors should also ensure that they prepare well for council discussions and debates and “abide by all government rules, regulations as well as resolutions of Council that apply to their work and their conduct”. They should “do everything with honesty and integrity, break no laws and tolerate no corruption, and promote the unity of the organisation at all times”. 

According to the document, mayoral candidates are now to be announced before the elections. In 2016 only the ANC’s metro and district mayoral candidates were announced ahead of the elections. The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) is tasked with adopting clear criteria for mayoral candidates. 

“The selection and approval should happen at the extended NEC [meeting] well before the elections so that the mayoral candidates can be profiled and made known to voters to build confidence and trust,” the draft guidelines state. Previously, the party left it until after the announcement of results to project an image of all its candidates being equally capable and humble, but also in an effort to keep internal party battles to a minimum.

The candidate selection process provides for an “open community vote”, using ballot papers, following a community meeting where candidates should all answer the same four questions (around what they consider pressing issues and why people should vote for them) as well as three questions from the floor. The guidelines also outline safe Covid-19 practices during this process, which is, according to the time-frames stated, expected to unfold in March. 

Candidates may campaign a week before the community vote, but “to ensure that money plays no role, candidates and their supporters may not produce T-shirts, media, branding of any object, banners, pamphlets or posters”. They are also not allowed to spend money or accept donations, “with the exception of paying for meeting venues”. Those who break these rules could be expelled from the party. 

All candidates will be interviewed and vetted by special committees set up by the party for this purpose, and there are quotas for women (50%), under-35s (25%) and those with experience in government (60%). 

According to the guidelines, “consideration must be given to the selection of candidates able to win support in areas where the ANC does not have majority support”, and those who are “popular in communities” and who are “recognised as local leaders” should be sought out, even if they don’t hold an elected position in the ANC. The draft document also warns against “dormant/non-existent organisations” that only appear around nominations and election time. DM

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