ANC branches around the country have started gearing up for the 2021 local government elections, despite discussions among national leaders about postponing the poll because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The branches are also planning to hold the more than 20 regional and provincial elective conferences, which were postponed indefinitely at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown in March, as part of the process building up to the local government elections.
The move is the latest indication that the ANC’s national executive committee has abandoned plans to postpone the 2021 poll and synchronise it with the 2024 national and provincial elections.
In terms of legislation, a municipal election has to happen within 90 days of the expiry of each council’s term of office, which means they have to take place between August 4 and November 1 next year.
The ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters had both expressed a desire to postpone next year’s municipal elections, while the Democratic Alliance has continued with its preparations for its councillor and mayor selection processes. The official opposition has also pushed ahead with plans for its elective federal congress in October, at which new national leaders will be elected.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the 11 ANC regions wrote to their branches last weekend telling them they should start gearing up for the municipal poll.
In a memorandum to the party’s eThekwini region’s branches on Sunday, the convener of its regional task team, Mluleki Ndobe, said that ANC structures were “now being converted to election structures as we prepare for the 2021 local elections”.
Ndobe said branch executive committees and task teams were being converted to branch election teams. Branch secretaries would act as branch election team coordinators, while chairpersons would act as conveners for the election teams. Branches were instructed to provide the regions with names of the election teams by Tuesday this week.
A similar approach has already started in the North West, where the branch leaders have also been collapsed into election teams by the regional task teams and provincial interim committee (PIC) appointed to oversee the running of the party in the province.
A member of the PIC, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not mandated to talk to the media, said the process in the province would prove “difficult” because of the deeply entrenched factionalism between supporters of provincial chairperson Supra Mahumapelo and those of Premier Job Makgoro.
The situation in North West was further complicated earlier this month when the party suspended 15 ANC councillors, including the speaker, Alfred Nyamane, in the Ramotshere Moiloa local municipality (Zeerust) for firing the mayor, Kereng Mothoagae.
ANC North West spokesperson Kenny Morolong confirmed that the party was reviving its election machinery in the province and at branch level to ensure that its activists who had participated in earlier election campaigns were retained.
Morolong said he did not believe the suspensions would have a negative effect on the campaign.
“These councillors are placed on temporary suspension, which shall remain in force until the finalisation of the disciplinary proceedings, including any appeals or reviews,” he said.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said that although the debate about a potential change to the local government election date was taking place, the party still had to go ahead with preparations, subject to a lightening of the lockdown restrictions.
He said the law would have to be changed to allow the poll to be postponed.
Discussions about a potential electronic vote were also taking place. Their outcome would be dependent on what happened regarding the pandemic between now and next August.
Mabe said conferences would take place once conditions permitted.
In terms of the Independent Electoral Commission timetable released last month, procurement of election materials was set to begin before the end of August. Registration materials are to be delivered by December 15, with bulk voting materials to be delivered between April and May next year.