The South African Communist Party (SACP) has lined up 42 candidates to contest its historic Free State’s Metsimaholo Municipality by-election later this month, a turning point for the party in that it is for the first time contesting elections alone without its alliance partner, the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Party provincial secretary Bheke Stofile said the community has rallied around the SACP, with many volunteering to campaign on behalf of the party.
”We are contesting this by-elections because the community and the workers asked us to do so. They came together as workers and residents to help the SACP, even though some of them are not even members of the party,” said Stofile.
”We are done with nominations of candidates for both ward and proportional representation councillors. We have a total of 42 candidates ready to contest under the SACP banner…this is historical for the party and for the province.”
SACP national spokesperson Alex Mashilo said its provincial leaders wrote a letter to its national leadership, requesting it to allow them to contest the Metsimaholo by-election. The provincial leaders said the community were concerned about the state of the municipality, said Mashilo.
"They said things were not going well there, the situation was getting worse and requested the SACP to head straight to the ballot solo. This came from the community and workers…after careful consideration, the politburo held a meeting on 7 October, where a final decision was taken to stand for the by-elections at Metsimaholo,” Mashilo said.
Tensions within the African National Congress-led tripartite alliance saw the vanguard party take a decision to contest future elections alone at its July elective conference held in Ekurhuleni.
The SACP, once staunch supporters of President Jacob Zuma having helped him ascend to power in 2009, has since become sharp critics of his presidency and party leadership.
The party, along with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), another tripartite alliance member, have called for Zuma to step down as allegations of state capture and corruption scandals mounted against him.
The Free State provincial government dissolved the Metsimaholo coalition municipality in July after it failed to adopt its 2017/2018 budget.
Problems at the Sasolburg council started when Metsimaholo Coalition Association (MCA) mayor, Sello Hlasa, defected to the ANC, having appointed ANC members to key positions in the council.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) vowed to remove Hlasa, leading to the collapse of the council.
The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) was supposed to hold by-elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the council, as per electoral rules.
The IEC approached the Electoral Court for a postponement of the by-elections, citing 22,000 out of 78,000 registered voters in Metsimaholo who did not have addresses captured on the voters’ roll.
The court granted the postponement.
No political party won a majority of the vote to head Metsimaholo after last year’s fiercely contested local government elections.
The ANC got 19 seats, the DA 12, the EFF eight, the MCA got two, while the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) got one seat. The by-election would be held on 29 November.
Parties will contest 21 ward and 21 proportional representation council seats.