The African National Congress-led Cape Town council appears to have been drafted to boost the party’s faltering municipal election campaign, where it has been out-postered and out-pamphleted by a Democratic Alliance hell-bent on winning back the city.
A number of grassroots investment projects, largely on the Cape Flats, have been launched in the past 10 days by the council, apparently with the intention of consolidating the ANC’s core following in the African townships.
In a live radio debate on Tuesday, executive mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo insisted the ANC had a track record of delivery in the city, citing shopping malls in Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha, new transport interchanges and the N2 Gateway housing project.
”There’s an urban renewal … We actually are delivering,” she said.
Council projects in poor areas announced over the past two weeks include:
- a clean-up campaign by Mfeketo and her management team in Khayelitsha;
- the allocation of R5,2-million to a string of community arts and crafts, environmental and early childhood learning projects;
- the upgrading of the Gugulethu taxi and bus interchange and a traffic calming project for the NY1, a busy road through the township;
- The start of construction of 140 houses in District Six, as part of a project to build 4 000 units. President Thabo Mbeki handed over title deeds for the properties days before the December 2000 municipal poll; and
- a footbridge over a busy thoroughfare linking Langa to Bonteheuwel near the clinic and another smaller footbridge over a canal dividing Langa.
The rush of initiatives, seen against the city’s failure to spend its capital budget, was greeted sceptically in opposition ranks.
Said Independent Democrats mayoral candidate Simon Grindrod: ”Nice timing. At least they should have the decency to do this a few months, not weeks, before the poll. The ANC should not underestimate voters’ intelligence.”
With barely three weeks to go before polling, the race for Cape Town is still wide open. The ANC insists it will remain in charge of the city and its R18-billion budget. But forecasts of defeat are rife in some party circles, with city tender scandals, trade union unhappiness over council restructuring and simmering resentment over former mayoral adviser Blackman Ngoro’s racist comments being cited.
Thirteen of the 25 independents or defectors expelled from the ANC last month are now actively campaigning in Khayelitsha as ”The People’s Candidates”. On Thursday, scores of ANC supporters from Joe Slovo and the squatter camp at Langa, where shacks are frequently razed, joined the DA.
Support on the day is a concern for the ANC. In the December 2000 poll, the council went to the DA, with 107 of 200 seats, because of a strong white voter turnout, while the ANC’s traditional township supporters failed to make their cross in sufficient numbers.