JUSTICE MALALA: Inside the ANC’s election day plan

The governing party may be poor at governing, but it rolls up its sleeves when it comes to getting the voters out

BL PREMIUM 29 SEPTEMBER 2021 – 08:30 

Picture: The Herald/ Fredlin Adriaan

Picture: The Herald/ Fredlin Adriaan 

Just because the ANC is corrupt, inept, divided, broke and deeply unpopular does not mean that it will lose the upcoming local elections.

The ANC is many things, but it is not stupid, and it has over the years amassed deep knowledge on how elections are run and won. Crucially, its key strategists are honest enough to still be able to coldly analyse the problems it faces and savvy enough to know what needs to be done to cause a last-minute upset, even as many are already dancing on the party’s grave.

In a 35-page election manual distributed to its election workers a fortnight ago, the ANC illustrates that it knows where its problem lies and warns its local leaders: “Remember: poor registration of ANC voters and low turnout on election day cost us three metros in the 2016 local elections.”

The ANC document shows that the party is well aware that its Achilles heel is the disillusionment and frustration of its own supporters and previous voters. It realises that in the past it could just send out generalised messages and fill up buses on the day and it would win. The ANC’s priority in previous elections — except 2016 and 2019 — was merely to provide transport to the voting station. The odds worked in its favour; the majority would vote ANC.

That has changed and the party knows it. Its document says: “SA is now a normal democracy and we cannot expect the same enthusiasm that voters showed in earlier elections. There is a danger that many ANC voters may not go and vote because of apathy, disillusionment or complacency. For election day the branch elections team has to build a machinery that can reach every ANC voter and get them to the voting station.”

It goes on to say that “we must have a list of potential ANC voters and cross them off as they come and vote. Those who do not come by 1pm must be SMSed, called or visited, to persuade them to come and vote. If needed, they must be picked up.”

For the opposition, the message is clear. Do the same or the ANC will defeat you again.

The ANC is running a focused, targeted campaign this time around. It is using methods it has not used before – it aims to speak to every voter and know beforehand which way they are leaning. If they lean ANC, then it will pull out all the stops to get them to the voting station on November 1.

It tells its members to raise cash by selling things, creating regular income streams through debit orders from supporters for as little as R10 a month

The party has already deployed “door-to-door teams” across the country. With up to 50 volunteers in every voting district, these teams suss out positions of voters even before voting day. If a voter is doubtful they are visited by a “persuader”. Persuaders are “ANC leaders, politically clear public representatives and community leaders, and can engage with voters who need advice or help or persuasion every day, by phone or door to door”.

The party says that every voting district with “15 strong comrades making 10 calls each a day for 20 days can persuade 3,000 voters to vote ANC through direct engagement”.

These direct efforts are supplemented by events such as the meetings that President Cyril Ramaphosa and others have undertaken across the country, posters and media distribution supplemented with heavy social media presence. Incidentally, even the anger that was vented at Ramaphosa last weekend is anticipated in the ANC document (“respond to local and difficult questions” without anger).

The party knows that it is broke and is weaning its members off the dependency of the past. It tells its members to raise cash by selling things, creating regular income streams through debit orders from supporters for as little as R10 a month, organising competitions and talent contests and setting up discos and parties.

“If you have the resources, you can organise expensive dinners, banquets or cocktail parties for business people who want to meet our leaders,” it says.

Oh, and don’t think the ANC is being cavalier about election funding laws. It tells its members to issue receipts and to ensure that donations of more than R100,000 are declared to the IEC.

The race is on. Don’t write off the ANC, is what I’m telling you.