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January 8: Predictable ANC manifesto and Zuma's boo situation

Verashni Pillay

Gwede Mantashe says the ANC's 2014 manifesto will surprise no one. But will Jacob Zuma survive the boos as the party campaigns for election support?

ANC president Jacob Zuma. (Lisa Skinner, M&G)

Jobs and the economy: that's likely to be the ANC's focus at its manifesto launch this weekend, following a meeting of the party's top brass earlier this week in Nelspruit. 

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Tuesday the manifesto would not be a surprise for those familiar with the party. 

"It is a continuation of the work we have been doing," he said, speaking to media on Tuesday after a brief photo opportunity with the national executive committee (NEC). "We are going to build on the five priority areas we selected in 2009, we will put emphasis more on the areas where there have been difficulty [and] I would imagine that jobs and the economy would be a major focus."

All eyes are on the ANC ahead of their manifesto launch and January 8 statement in Nelspruit on the weekend. The area has been flooded with ANC and government leaders as the party plans its year ahead of a crucial national election. 

Mantashe said the manifesto was concluded on Tuesday and the party was still working on the January 8 statement, which he said would lay out the ANC's plan of action for the next 12 months. 

The party concluded its two-day NEC meeting on Tuesday in Mpumalanga. It is believed discussions included the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa's (Numsa) recent rebellion against the ruling alliance as well as the controversial e-tolls and its effect on upcoming elections. ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa also tabled a report from the party's task team, set up to help Cosatu find solutions to its problems that have seen the trade union federation – part of the ruling alliance with the ANC and South African Communist Party – beset by infighting.

Campaigning
Over the next few days, top ANC leaders, including many Cabinet ministers, will make the most of their time in the province ahead of the weekend's events. The top six leaders of the party are scheduled to campaign in various areas of the province and hold mini-rallies on the party's 102nd anniversary on January 8. The actual statement is released on the weekend closest to the anniversary – this year on Saturday January 11 at Mbombela Stadium. 

It will be party president Jacob Zuma's first address at a stadium following the booing incident that made international news at the memorial for departed icon Nelson Mandela. The ANC is under pressure to prevent a similar incident from occurring. 

Zuma, however, will be missing out on an opportunity to practice in the next few days. While the rest of the top six will address "mini-rallies" at community halls around the province, no such event is listed on Zuma's line-up. He will address residents at Kwanyamazane township on Tuesday morning as part of campaigning in the province. The rest of the top six of the ANC will be kept busy with similar campaigning in other parts of the province, including Ramaphosa doing a walkabout at Thonga Mall and Thonga taxi rank, as well as a mini-rally with residents at KwaMhlushwa Community Hall.

The party is facing something of a cross-roads following the booing incident and the loss of support from a strong organisation such as Numsa. But Mantashe on Tuesday shrugged off the union's recently announced boycott of election campaigning on behalf of the party. 

"When they said individual members can do what they want to do, it means metalworkers will campaign for the ANC," said Mantashe on Tuesday. "The only thing they will withhold is their money. I was trying to think back: how much has Numsa given us in the last election?" he asked to laughs. "But it's symbolic for them to have that pronouncement that they will not give money to the ANC."

Numsa cuts ties
The Mail & Guardian reported that Cosatu's largest affiliate resolved at a special national congress towards the end of last month that it would not campaign for the ANC next year or support the party financially. It also decided to withhold its R800 000 monthly subscription to Cosatu.

"Numsa as an organisation will neither endorse nor support the ANC or any other political party in 2014," general secretary Irvin Jim told journalists at the time.

Jim also called on Zuma to resign.

But Mantashe insisted that the party's upcoming manifesto launch and January 8 statement, led by Zuma, would be packed to capacity.

"We are expecting the stadium to be full and overflowing," he told journalists. "[The] ANC fills a stadium and if it is not full there will be something wrong."

The party stands a real chance of falling below 55% of the national vote, claimed internal polling. A recent Ipsos Markinor poll conducted by the Sunday Times found that only 55% of those who voted for the ANC in 2009 plan to do so again this year.

Scandals
​Zuma has suffered a number of embarrassing scandals during his time in office, including the splurging of up to R206-million of public funds on a security upgrade at his private residence in Nkandla.

Corruption and wasteful expenditure has also been problematic under Zuma's leadership. 

Shortly before his term of office came to an end, then auditor general Terrence Nombembe found that government wasted more than R30-billion over the past financial year. In his report for 2013/14, Nombembe also found that government awarded R233-million in tenders to companies in which public servants, or their close family members, had interests.

The ANC is now also under additional pressure in its campaigning given the loss of their normal muscle, the ANC Youth League, which has been largely disabled.


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