Will 'Ramaphoria' send us to an early election?
ANC leadership proposes discussion on early general elections
The ANC’s consideration of an early election is not so much about maximising on the current “Ramaphoria” as it is about the party’s concerns about whether the positive sentiment can be sustained.
While the ejection of Jacob Zuma from office and the glow of the “new dawn” under President Cyril Ramaphosa has given the ANC hope of bouncing back from its downward trajectory, there are worries that the positivity might subside by the time South Africa goes to its sixth democratic elections next year.
Early elections were first proposed by opposition parties and the idea has gained some traction in the ANC leadership in light of the positive response to Ramaphosa’s leadership.
The prospect of holding the polls later this year was discussed at the weekend’s ANC national executive committee meeting in Cape Town, with some members motivating that the party should capitalise on the positive mood in the country.
The discussion coincided with South Africa receiving a breather from another downgrade by ratings agency Moody’s, which revised the country’s outlook from negative to stable.
“The recent change in political leadership appears to have halted the gradual erosion of the strength of South Africa’s institutions. With changes in governance, a number of key institutions, including the Treasury, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and key state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have embarked on the recovery of their earlier strength,” Moody’s said.
“While it is still very early days, the speed with which the president has moved to replace the leadership in key institutions, including the ministries of Finance, Mineral Resources and Public Enterprises and most recently in SARS, illustrates the resolve to address the problems of the recent past and to set the state, society and the economy on a new and positive path,” the rating agency said.While the electorate would be less clinical in its assessment, the political transition is bound to help the ANC retain confidence in its traditional constituencies and win back some support among disgruntled and apathetic voters.
The ANC has seen declining support in recent polls and fears losing its majority in what is expected to be a highly contested election next year.
The question, however, is whether the current sentiment can be kept up for another year as Ramaphosa settles into office. While the removal of Zuma and purging cabinet of dead wood and controversial ministers were quick fixes, delivering on his ambitious goals for economic growth and job creation will be much more difficult to achieve.
But ANC secretary general Ace Magashule told the media on Sunday night that the NEC had not taken a decision to bring forward the elections and the party had a timeline for preparing for the polls.
Bringing forward the elections is of course not the ANC’s decision alone, even though the president has to promulgate the date. The decision as to when the elections will be held has to be made in close consultation with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) whose task it is to deliver a credible election.
IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said the commission would have to discuss its state of readiness with the president before a date could be promulgated. The elections would be held within 90 days of the announcement.
But before that could be done, massive preparatory work would be conducted, including getting the voters’ roll to pass a credibility test, recruitment of about 220,000 people to work at polling stations across the country and conducting training and voter education, Bapela said.
“There is a lot of gruelling work to ensure that everything we do is legally and technically sound,” she said.
One of the first hurdles for the IEC to overcome is to comply with a Constitutional Court ruling that names be linked to addresses on the voter’s roll. Bapela said the IEC would be submitting its last report on this matter to the Constitutional Court in June.
While the IEC must go through stringent processes to ensure credible elections, it is also doubtful whether the ANC itself would be ready to go to the polls ahead of time.
The party must hold list conferences to determine its candidates for elections, which could reignite factional battles in ANC structures.
The ANC must also undertake intensive repair work internally, including ensure the integrity of its membership numbers and reviving dysfunctional structures.
It must also convince the electorate that there is a proper plan to undo the damage of the Zuma years.
But the ANC will have the dilemma of two other processes unfolding parallel to its election campaign.
The state capture commission of inquiry is likely to cause discomfort and further damage to the ANC as evidence is led about how the Gupta family was allowed to usurp control from the party.
The ANC must also contend with its former president facing trial on corruption, and possibly further heat in the state capture prosecutions. While the NEC declared this weekend that members could support Zuma in their personal capacity, the cases are likely to become a PR nightmare for the ANC.
The ANC must therefore accept that “Ramaphoria” provides only a temporary glow and a hard grind is needed to keep the flame burning.