A 90-year-old revolutionary turned his back on the ANC and is standing for the EFF
Most people are retired by the age of 90, or even decades before that. But Arnold Mthuthuzeli Specman is starting a new career in politics. The nonagenarian is the oldest candidate in this year’s local government elections.
He is standing as a candidate for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Ferguson location in the Mbizana local municipality on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast.
After a lifetime as an ANC member, he joined the EFF in 2013.
“The EFF has gone with an agenda that I was taught, the Freedom Charter of the ANC, in that everybody must participate in the economy of this country. The people are working underground and they getting money just to eat and finished. There’s no plough-back. The EFF challenges that.”
Specman perhaps has good reason to be bitter about the lack of change. His constituency is largely rural and suffers a dearth of basic provisions such as a sewerage system and piped water, according to the 2011 census conducted by Statistics South Africa.
Only 1.1% of residents in Mbizana have a flush toilet, just 2% receive weekly refuse removal, and access to piped water inside homes stands at 2.3%.
The overall unemployment rate is 43.6% and among the youth it is more than 50%.
These are not the hopes Specman cherished when he joined the ANC early in his life. At the time the party was banned, he risked his life to recruit members for the liberation movement. He recalls the Ngquza Hill attack in March 1960. Apartheid police killed at least 11 civilians, wounded 30 others and arrested 21.
Nowadays he wants nothing to do with the party that once inspired such courage in him and his generation.
Asked why he joined the EFF, when it espouses the very document held so dear by the ruling party, Specman replied: “The ANC has got lots of crooks. They eat the money that government collects for poor people. The people in Parliament and municipalities … they are cruel to poor people … they are just like white people. The EFF is standing for poor people.”
The Eastern Cape has been fertile ground for opposition parties because of dissatisfaction with the ANC. It has even spawned growth in independent candidates as local leaders vent their anger over the ANC’s lists for local government representation.
Specman says he still possesses the verve to make meat out of the ANC’s poison. The same goes for his stamina to endure the grind of politics.
“Yes, I’m strong enough. Every day I’m campaigning – from about 9am up to four or five.”
He says he has a number of advantages that will make him attractive to voters. For one, he claims to have been the one who brought running water and electricity to Mbizana in the 1960s, after appealing to the authorities at the time.
He also says he has the popularity to win his ward. “Even dogs know me. My name is Mthuthuzeli, which means “to comfort”. That name is saying you are for the people.”