A panic-stricken ANC failed in its last-ditch attempt to convince its long-time allies, the communist party, not to go to the ballot solo at Wednesday’s municipal by-elections in the Free State.
City Press heard that indications were that the SACP was aiming to walk away with some seats in the Sasolburg council and make inroads in four of the 21 wards it is contesting.
With alliance relations in tatters, the ANC failed to persuade the SACP to withdraw in a meeting of the Alliance Political Council convened last Monday.
The rebellious SACP has fielded 42 candidates in the Metsimaholo Local Municipality and is likely to look to the EFF for a partner or other organisations that want to see a clean and effective government that delivers to the poor.
EFF insiders, however, will view coalition talks with the SACP with some suspicion.
Their view is that the SACP’s allegiance to presidential hopeful Cyril Ramaphosa could collapse the municipality in the event that Ramaphosa wins at the ANC’s elective conference next month.
There is a belief that the SACP could give power back to the ANC if Ramaphosa is victorious, leaving the EFF high and dry.
SACP deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said Metsimaholo residents were the same people who piled the pressure on them to contest elections independently and that they could not turn and spit in their faces.
“The local comrades must be given that space to decide. We have also allowed them to choose a candidate mayor – only this morning I was introduced to him,” he said.
However, no deal will be negotiated with their “class enemies” such as the DA and Freedom Front Plus.
“We are contesting elections for the people of Metsimaholo, that message is extremely important. They have asked us to enter the race, we didn’t just decide on our own.”
There was a last-minute rush to do damage control this week after the SACP refused to back down from the contest.
Party heavyweights met with alliance partners and their structures in Metsimaholo on Thursday to try to salvage the situation and resolve tensions which flared among alliance members.
The province was instructed to organise a venue and invite members to the gathering which was held at Harry Gwala Multipurpose Centre where SACP members were in a minority.
So dire was the situation that even President Jacob Zuma halted other proceedings and flew in on a helicopter solely for this crucial meeting.
Mapaila told City Press the meeting discussed how to deal with another conundrum – an ANC constitutional provision that bars members from contesting against the ANC.
The meeting resolved that every member would have to decide on their own behalf whether to vote for the SACP or the ANC on the ballot come Wednesday.
This week, Mapaila had to dampen fires caused by what he said was disinformation already being peddled by ANC members that the SACP was merely fronting for the ANC.
The bone of contention in the community was around the imposition of councillors by the ANC and the dismissal of workers in 2013, who was only re-employed last month after the communists confronted the ANC
in the area.
It followed a warning from the SACP that it would not support any imposed candidates in the local government elections.
Mapaila said the ANC could have averted this but it became arrogant and kept shifting the goalposts in attending to problems raised by the workers and community.
No political party won a majority of the vote after last year’s fiercely contested local government elections, forcing parties to enter into a power-sharing deal.
The ANC got 19 seats, the DA 12, the EFF eight, the Metsimaholo Community Association (MCA) got two, while the Freedom Front Plus got one seat.
The municipality’s formed coalition government was dissolved in July after it failed to adopt its 2017/18 budget and later on when its then MCA mayor, Sello Hlasa, defected to the ANC.
The SACP is contesting all 21 wards and its candidates include respected individuals in the community who are not members of the party.
Hlengiwe Nhlabathi and S’thembile Cele/–