Governing party accused of buying votes by handing out food parcels and cash to residents of QwaQwa ahead of by-elections on Wednesday.
The upcoming by-elections in Maluti-a-Phofung in the Free State, in which 15 former ANC councillors are contesting as independents, have been plagued by accusations that the governing party is playing dirty to attract voters.
The party has been accused of handing out food parcels and money to buy votes in the QwaQwa municipality.
Concerned about these tactics, the ANC Free State deputy chairperson, William Bulwane, pleaded with party members in a WhatsApp message to “minimise the issuing of food parcels in public”.
The message also warned those in the province’s election WhatsApp group about complaints from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which could put the party at risk of disqualification in the elections due to be held on Wednesday.
The IEC in the Free State said it was aware of the messages and rumours which had been making the rounds, but had not formally received any complaints.
“We have never communicated with anyone in the ANC about that matter. We also saw it [the message], I think last week Friday. It was brought to our attention by someone to say this is what is circulating in the media,” the electoral commission’s Itumeleng Nida said.
ANC Free State spokesperson Thabo Meeko told City Press that the WhatsApp message in question was authentic.
However, he claimed the food parcels were part of another campaign which was unrelated to the by-elections.
Meeko said that campaign was targeted at homes which were burnt down in winter.
“We have done our own investigation because this was never an ANC [by-election] programme and the discovery was that this was a programme planned before,” Meeko said.
“People did not comprehend the issues relating to the elections and food parcels; they had planned the activity concurrently with the by-election programme.
“That message [sent by Bulwane] was meant to say, ‘comrades desist from doing these things, even if it was about the disaster, you have got to stop it’.”
Pharatlane Motloung, spokesperson for the 15 independent candidates, said they would lay a complaint against the ANC.
They took the decision after the Free State caucus posted pictures, purporting to show the former Maluti-a-Phofung mayor, Vusi Tshabalala, on Facebook handing over money to a man. In the other picture he is with a woman who had received food parcels and blankets.
The Facebook caption reads: “As part of the campaigning for the upcoming by-elections in Maluti-a-Phofung, the chief whip, comrade Vusi [Tshabalala], was deployed to conduct a door to door in ward 16.”
DA councillor Alison Oates said: “We laid a complaint with Mxolisi Jacobs from the IEC in QwaQwa.”
She also hinted at the possibility of irregularities pertaining to the applications for special votes and had laid a second complaint with the commission.
Oates said she found it strange that in the numberof rejected special vote applications were names of dead people.
In the political liaison committee meeting last Monday, the feedback given to political parties was that 334 applications were declined because the people were either not registered in the ward, or their ID numbers were incorrect or they were dead.
“How did those deceased people manage to sign the special votes application? And it is a criminal offence to show that somebody is eligible for voting when they are not,” Oates said.
The independent candidates believed the ANC was in a panic and had resorted to such tactics because the party felt “threatened”.
Motloung said the 15 independent candidates were confident of victory in all the wards being contested.
The group made headlines in December last year after they were axed by the governing party for refusing to vote for a candidate who was supposed to replace Tshabalala, who had been recalled by the ANC.
Earlier this month, they were among hundreds of community members gathered to officially break away from the party. Videos of the disgruntled ANC members tearing up party regalia at the meeting went viral on social media.
This, however, has not bothered the governing party, which held a meeting with the disgruntled group on August 5. Meeko said they were no longer going to pursue talks with them and would rather invest their time in the party’s by-elections campaign.
Last week the party’s national executive committee sent senior official Siyabonga Cwele to help with the campaigning.
“The ANC campaign is going well. The strength of our campaign is that we are taking it to the people,” Meeko told City Press.
But, he said, there were “individuals who are desperate to sabotage” the efforts of the party to restore the embattled municipality.
Meeko said the police would work relentlessly to find any culprits who were involved in wrongdoing.
New administrators had been employed to help the financially unstable municipality which was identified in Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu’s report as being among the municipalities with the worst cases of irregular and wasteful expenditure.
The cash-strapped municipality has been without a mayor for more than six months and has struggled financially because of maladministration.
For the past few months, municipal workers had not received their salaries on time. The municipality had to negotiate with National Treasury to release the equitable share grant to pay its workers.
TALK TO US
Will accusations against the ANC help or hinder the independent candidates in the by-elections?
SMS us on 35697 using the keyword INDEPENDENTS and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50. By participating, you agree to receive occasional marketing material