The ANC has decided to roll up its sleeves and get its hands dirty in the fight for the Cape.
The ANC has taken over the leadership of the controversial and long-running service delivery campaign against the Democratic Alliance-led City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government.
However, it is not clear how it will run the campaign.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe inadvertently revealed this to the Mail & Guardian this week when he was asked about a meeting he had held with suspended ANC councillors Loyiso Nkohla and Andile Lili, who have led a series of unorthodox protests around Cape Town this year.
They and seven others were suspended from the ANC for bringing the organisation into disrepute after they led a group of people who dumped faeces on the steps of the Western Cape provincial legislature to protest against inadequate sanitation in Khayelitsha.
Sources had told the M&G that the national ANC leadership was worried about the group’s growing influence on communities – which are ruling party constituencies, in the main – and the local ANC leadership has been accused of being absent.
Nkohla, an ANC councillor in the City of Cape Town, and Lili, who was kicked out of the council early this year, have spearheaded a number of protests.
They started with the exposure of, and later the demolition of, the open-air Makhaza toilets in 2010 under the ANC Youth League banner. Then they led the "poo protests" and, later, the service delivery marches against the provincial government.
The duo is understood to be working with street committees in over 100 townships and informal settlements and will mobilise thousands of people from these communities for protest marches.
This became evident at the October 30 march to the provincial legislature – one of the biggest in the Western Cape in recent years – when protesters looted informal traders’ stalls and shops and damaged property in the city centre.
The march was to demand land for housing development, decent sanitation and negotiated bus rapid transport and Cape Town integrated rapid transit system processes, they said in an SMS sent to the media.
The Western Cape High Court granted an eleventh-hour interdict request by the DA to stop a similar march into the city centre scheduled for November 29, due to fears that the march could degenerate into violence like the previous one.
This week, Mantashe lashed out at the M&G when he was asked about the ANC’s position on the campaign and the meeting with Nkohla and Lili.
"Why ask questions now, when we have taken over the campaign?" he asked.
"Why ask questions when the ANC got the human settlements department to go there and look into this thing?"
Mantashe admitted that he has told a number of ANC meetings that the party needs to be involved and lead the campaign.
He would not be drawn on specifics when quizzed, but lambasted the M&G for asking questions when there was "a positive development in the story: the ANC’s takeover".
Sources had told the M&G that Mantashe visited an area in Khayelitsha over the weekend of November 23 and 24 and tried out the portable flushing toilet provided by the City of Cape Town to informal settlements, after which he allegedly said he understood the opposition to the toilets.
Several sources claim that Mantashe questioned the absence of the ANC provincial leadership from the sanitation campaign, and instructed the party’s representatives to "lead the people".
"He also instructed Zou Kota [the deputy minister of human settlements] to listen to those people and sort out the issues," said one source.
"He [Mantashe] said the level of co-operation that these guys [Nkohla and Lili] are getting from the people on the ground must worry us [the ANC]."
Nkohla confirmed that they will be launching a community-based organisation early next year to fight service delivery issues.
The ANC’s involvement follows that of the Western Cape Religious Leaders’ Forum and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who last week offered to facilitate talks between the protesting communities, the Cape Town municipality and the provincial government..