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We can’t bend the electoral compliance rules to accommodate the ANC’s gross incompetence

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Sibusiso Ngalwa is the politics editor of Newzroom Afrika and chair of the South African National Editors’ Forum.

The party had ample time to load its candidates on to the system – the registration period commenced on 3 August. Effectively, the ANC, like any other registered party, had 20 days to submit its lists. Blaming the IEC is merely a red herring.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

In June 2016, the National Freedom Party (NFP) approached the Electoral Court after the party missed the deadline to pay the deposit required to contest the local government elections of the same year. This meant it was disqualified from participating in those polls.

After making an impassioned plea to the Electoral Court about how the failure to participate in the elections would disenfranchise voters and render the polls not “free and fair”, the court still came to a different conclusion.

Although the party had missed the deadline by 20 days and eventually paid the R480,000 deposit, it maintained that the failure to meet the deadline had been an administrative “error” on the part of its treasurer.

In a judgment delivered by Judge Willem Wepener, he was quite candid in his criticism of the NFP’s attempts to have the deadline extended.

The Electoral Court found that there was “no sanction for non-compliance other than placing oneself outside the contest due to non-compliance”. It was the court’s way of telling the NFP to suffer the consequences of their actions or lack thereof.

This writer reread this important ruling following the indication by the ANC that it will approach the Electoral Court to argue for the party to be allowed to submit the names of its candidates in about 30 municipalities after it missed the 9pm deadline set for Monday, 23 August 2021.

It blamed “glitches” on the Electoral Commission’s (IEC’s) website for its failure to submit the candidates, but the ANC also conceded that some of its regions, such as Tshwane, were late in compiling their lists.

So now the governing party wants the Electoral Court to help it remedy its inefficiencies.

The “freezing website” argument is simply not good enough. What this latest episode involving the governing party shows is gross incompetence within the ANC. The party had ample time to load its candidates on to the system – the registration period commenced on 3 August. Effectively, the ANC, like any other registered party, had 20 days to submit its lists. Blaming the IEC is merely a red herring.

We all know that ANC staff have been on a “go-slow” after their salaries were not paid in July and August, and this obviously had an impact on the party’s ability to run an effective administrative process.

Why should the rules be bent to accommodate the ANC’s incompetence?  This should not be allowed and the Electoral Court must dismiss the application. It’s a hard lesson for the ANC, but it will not be the first party to miss an election. It also happened to the IFP in the 2011 local government elections, when the party failed to submit its list to the local IEC office in Umzumbe. It was unable to field candidates in that municipality. That matter went all the way to the Constitutional Court, where the earlier decision of the Electoral Court was overturned. Despite the IFP’s efforts to hire a chopper, on the last day of submissions, to fly its documents from Durban’s Virginia Airport to Umzumbe, on the South Coast, having failed because of bad weather, the court was clear in its application of the law.

It maintained that even-handedness when dealing with political parties is crucial for the elections. “Even-handedness in dealing with all political parties and candidates is crucial to that integrity and its perception by voters. The Commission must not be placed in a situation where it has to make ad hoc decisions about political parties and candidates who have not complied with the [Electoral] Act.”

The last point is important because it is already the argument advanced by the EFF, indicating that it will oppose the ANC’s application to the Electoral Court.

The ANC’s Jessie Duarte argued that the elections would not be free and fair if the party was not allowed to submit the names of its candidates in some of the affected municipalities. There was a similar argument made by the NFP in 2016. Judge Wepener disagreed.

“Individuals or parties who fail to act fairly and correctly may pay the price by exclusion. Those who did act according to the prescripts acted fairly. They are entitled to complain of an unfair election should non-compliant candidates and parties be allowed to join in the process… If those who disregarded the prescripts are allowed to join in on the basis contended for by the NFP I am of the view that the inclusion would be unfair vis-à-vis those participants who acted lawfully,” read the judgment.

The ANC has made its bed and so it must lie in it. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Agree. The ANC thinks it’s above the rule and the law and never misses an opportunity to demonstrate it! How can it hope to administer a municipality if it can’t meet deadlines?

  • R S says:

    Well said. The ANC’s failure to complete this one simple task is just a sign of its much greater issues.

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