JACOB Zuma has launched a last-minute rescue plan to stop disgruntled party members from boycotting the May 18 local government elections if the party’s nominations debacle is not resolved.
The ANC has in recent weeks faced a simmering internal revolt after scores of party members in several provinces claimed that the nomination of election candidates by the party had been manipulated at the eleventh hour to suit influential members.
Yesterday, Zuma said people whose names were irregularly added to the ANC’s candidates’ list would be removed from office soon after the elections.
Speaking to journalists at the party’s HQ, Luthuli House, in Johannesburg, the ANC president pleaded with party members who had decided to stand as independents to reconsider as the ANC was their political home.
“I am therefore calling upon all those who were dissatisfied and who have decided to declare themselves as independents in this election to return and campaign for the ANC,” Zuma said.
He said the party was prepared to hold by-elections soon after the municipal elections in areas or wards in which the party’s preferred candidates had been fraudulently removed from the candidates’ list.
”Our honesty and track record will ensure that we remove non-preferred candidates and replace them with those who were wanted in the first place by our structures and our communities.”
The decision to investigate the manipulation of candidates’ lists was taken after several communities threw the party’s election campaign into disarray and a wave of protests erupted across the country.
A number of angry party members accused ANC leaders of fiddling the lists and removing their preferred candidates.
For the first time, the ANC this year decided to allow communities to nominate election candidates.
Though the plan has worked in some communities, it has backfired in others, leading to court actions, protests and threats of an election boycott.
Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said the ANC’s candidacy protests have raised fears that many people will boycott the polls.
The inclusion of communities in the nomination of candidates has backfired, he said.
“It created an expectation that communities will become arbiters of who becomes a councillor, and not the ANC.
“The 2011 campaign is not a well-oiled one; not one that we have come to expect from the ANC. This campaign doesn’t look good, especially compared to previous campaigns … but the ANC is not overly concerned about the loss of power, it is concerned about the loss of credibility.”
Trade union federation Cosatu, an ANC ally, has also raised concerns about the ruling party’s nominations process. The federation’s boss, Zwelinzima Vavi, recently said popular candidates had fallen victim to powerful cliques.
He said that in some instances political space was being monopolised by those who have money.
Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said yesterday that the federation welcomed Zuma’s announcement.
“We will give him all the help and support we can to ensure that ANC councillors are genuine representatives of their communities.”
There have been ANC candidate-list protests in KwaZulu-Natal, Humansdorp and East London in Eastern Cape, in Guguletu, Western Cape, in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, and in De Aar and Postmasburg, Northern Cape.