Mbalula: Service delivery and nyaope, not Zuma or e-tolls, will decide elections

ANC supporters arrived in large numbers to  support the party's Gauteng branch's elections manifesto launch on Saturday at the FNB stadium in Soweto. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

ANC supporters arrived in large numbers to support the party's Gauteng branch's elections manifesto launch on Saturday at the FNB stadium in Soweto. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

New ANC head of organising Fikile Mbalula has come out in defence of the president, dismissing concerns that his leadership would impact negatively on the party’s performance during the upcoming local government elections.

The ANC this week announced that the sport and recreation minister will help revitalise what has arguably been the party’s most lacklustre local government election campaign in years.

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian this week, Mbalula – who is affectionately known as The Razzmatazz – said he was confident the ANC would retain all municipalities under its control.

Referring to the Constitutional Court judgment regarding the Nkandla debacle and President Jacob Zuma’s failure to uphold the Constitution, Mbalula said that it did not affect people on the ground. “I’m from Shosanguve addressing people today (Wednesday) [and] none of those people said the problem is Zuma or the e-tolls.

“It does not affect them. The people on the ground want better service delivery, how to deal with drugs (Nyaope) - and not about [Zuma and] the e-tolls.”

He said that only a “small section of society” talked about the judgment, specifically those who “benefit from the upgrading of the roads, but they want to ride free of charge”.

“People in the ANC should stop entertaining the opportunism of the opposition because it does not see anything good that we do, they undermine all that we do,” said Mbalula. He also lashed out at ANC and alliance leaders who have been critical of Zuma’s leadership.

“Those ANC leaders who are faceless and sitting in their up-chairs and are not campaigning, and making hallucinations about what the ANC will get post elections, they are doing a disservice to the party,” said Mbalula.

The ANC in Gauteng had declined to accept Zuma’s public apology on the Nkandla matter but has since  had a “change of heart”. The SACP, on the other hand, is still demanding a bilateral meeting with the ANC to discuss the president’s apology and what they called “visible” state capture of strategic government institutions.

Mbalula’s return as the party’s head of organising comes two months after the ANC failed to fill the 45 000-seater Nelson Mandela Bay stadium for its manifesto launch in Port Elizabeth.

Some ANC leaders have blamed the poor showing on the head of the party’s elections subcommittee, Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s inability to mobilise the masses. Others have accused the ANC leadership in the Eastern Cape of sabotaging the event in a deliberate attempt to embarrass Zuma.

Mbalula however defended Mokonyane, saying that “poor organising” and “technical glitches” were to blame for the party’s failure to attract a decent crowd. “In the tradition and culture of the ANC we are known to fill stadiums back to back,” he said.

He also said that the problem when things go wrong, is that an individual carries the blame – which is why Mokonyane was “singled out”.

Mbalula is an experienced campaigner who helped organise the ANC’s 2011 local elections campaign, but in May 2011 he collapsed - in Parliament - from exhaustion.

Prior to the ANC’s 2012 elective conference, the party had sidelined him for his vocal criticism of the president, keeping him out of the party’s NEC. However, soon after apologising to Zuma and his cronies, Mbalula was co-opted to the NEC and kept his Cabinet position.

Mbalula told the M&G that he had been brought back as head of organising because of his track record, and to implement the “master plan” to get voters to cast their votes. “What is key for us is not the mass meetings but voter contact, and listening to people’s grievances and weakness that they point to in terms of our governance in municipalities,” he said.

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