ANC scrambles to resolve staff salaries debacle and candidate registration bungle ahead of November elections
Crisis continues despite intervention by the president and the treasurer.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
With the ANC having been given a reprieve by the IEC – after the Electoral Commission’s decision to reopen the nomination process for candidates – the governing party is scrambling to ensure that it registers all its outstanding candidates.
It is also not taking any chances with last-minute submissions – one of the issues that led to the party’s failure to register candidates across 93 municipalities.
ANC spokesperson Dakota Legoete said the party was aiming to settle all disputes about who should be on the list by Saturday, so that it could focus on its elections strategy workshop on Sunday.
“We will look at who submitted and who did not submit, and when there is no dispute, we will start to upload [candidate nominations on the IEC’s system] so that we’re only left to deal with the disputes,” he said.
The party will hold community meetings in the wards where there have been disputes and where no proper nominations took place. He said the ANC should be given a chance to register its candidates. “Just imagine a party with 10 million voters not on the ballot paper. It is a trigger for civil unrest.”
Legoete said the ANC should have been given some leeway as its nominations process – through community meetings – was labour-intensive and involved a grassroots outreach, which takes time.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma this week announced that the local government elections will take place on Monday, 1 November, the last day allowed by the Constitution. She is expected to formally proclaim this date on 13 September, and with it an elections timetable to set the deadline for candidate nominations. It is expected to be 21 or 22 September.
Whereas parties like the Democratic Alliance, the Economic Freedom Fighters and newbies like ActionSA have been in campaign mode for weeks now, the ANC said its elections campaign will only kick off next week. Its manifesto launch is planned for 25 September.
The ANC is doing all in its power now to set aside internal differences and focus its energies on ensuring that it does well in the polls.
Yet it is faced with two major challenges.
The employees at its head office and in some provincial offices are on strike and in some cases on a go-slow. This means that administrative processes, at least at Luthuli House, have all but ground to a halt.
At the same time it is mulling over disciplinary processes against party officials, leaders and administrators who were responsible for the registration bungle that saw the party unable to register some of its candidates in more than 90 municipalities.
Legoete said only some cases will be heard now. “We are considering following up where a case has serious implications and ramifications for the ANC, but where it doesn’t, we will take action later because we don’t want to demoralise the campaign team. Those we are talking about are provincial and regional secretaries, and they can mess you up [when they are unhappy],” he said.
The revolt by the party’s staff, who have not been paid for more than two months, has added to the pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa – the spotlight falls on him as the party leader.
The ANC last paid salaries in June and even those salaries were paid a week late.
Some of Ramaphosa’s supporters within the ANC’s national executive committee see the public spat between the party and its employees as an attempt to embarrass the president.
This is exacerbated by the hostile posture of former party spokesperson Carl Niehaus, who has since been fired from his job as an ANC support staffer and media relations officer in the secretary-general’s office, where he was focusing on the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association. Late on 8 September, Niehaus circulated a “press release” inviting the media to the Johannesburg Central Police Station, where criminal charges were to be laid by unhappy staff against the leadership of the ANC. Niehaus later withdrew the press alert.
DM168 has seen a message from Mvusi Mdala, the representative for ANC staff, sent to a WhatsApp group of the governing party’s employees, showing that some ANC staffers were not in support of Niehaus’s antics.
“Good morning cdes, we had an engagement with cde Carl, he will no longer proceed with [the] charges today and he will issue a statement soon. Can we please leave this matter for now. We will reinstate him to this staff group. I thank you,” wrote Mdala.
But the ANC went ahead and summarily fired Niehaus on 9 September for bringing the party into disrepute.
He has vowed to fight on – even tweeting on 10 September that he would “proceed” to lay charges against the ANC’s national office bearers because “They [office-bearers] don’t care.”
Niehaus said a meeting that was meant to have taken place on the afternoon of 9 September between the staff and the national officials did not materialise.
ANC office-bearers, led by Ramaphosa, met with the staff on 8 September. At this meeting, Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile made a presentation about how the party intends selling off its assets and shares to remain liquid.
Mashatile promised to pay salaries next week.
But this was rejected by the workers’ representatives.
“We told them we want to be paid by the end of this week. We could not accept more promises because in May they said they would resolve all the money issues by August. Yet we still find ourselves here,” said a staff representative, who did not want to be named.
The meeting ended with the understanding that the party officials would return on Thursday, 10 September with a solution. But none of the Top Six members arrived at the meeting.
The remuneration stand-off is threatening the party’s plans ahead of the elections. At the same time, the ANC has also been accused of playing the “divide and rule” tactic after Luthuli House told the provincial structures to take care of their employees’ needs. This has led to provinces such as Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and Free State organising salaries for their respective workers. This has weakened the strike action, with employees at head office being the only ones still agitating for a solution to the money issue.
An NEC member said that, although the staff’s grievances were legitimate, the involvement of Niehaus – who is not shy about his loyalty to former president Jacob Zuma and suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule – muddies the waters.
“Carl is not acting alone. There is unhappiness among staff, but they are divided. The problem is that Carl is turning this into a political fight where he is pushing his agenda against the leadership.
“The sooner the ANC resolves the staff issue, the better. We can’t go into an election looking like this. We need the staff to coordinate campaigns but also to assist provinces and other structures,” said an NEC member.
Legoete has accused Niehaus of political grandstanding, especially because Niehaus intended to lay charges of corruption and fraud against five of the ANC’s Top Six (excluding Magashule). “You sign a contract with the secretary-general,” he said about employment at the ANC.
Legoete, however, claimed there are funds in provinces to pay staff there, and the biggest problem with non-payment was in Luthuli House itself. “There is already a process under way with employees’ representatives,” he said. DM168
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