/ 26 February 2006

Mbeki spreads ANC message in UDM heartland

President Thabo Mbeki took the African National Congress’s local government campaign into the Transkei heartland of the United Democratic Movement on Saturday.

In a series of stops, he made his way from the Wild Coast through the heart of the Mqanduli area where UDM leader Bantu Holomisa was born, and closed off with a mini rally in Mthatha’s Ngangelizwe township.

Mbeki’s road show was aimed at ensuring the ANC retains its hold on the King Sabata Dalindyebo municipality, which was narrowly won by the UDM in the 2000 local polls but taken by the ANC in a series of by-elections.

Going door-to-door on a hillside in rural Ngwancuba, inland from Coffee Bay, he listened to resident’s complaints about the lack of piped water and electricity, as well as government-provided toilets and housing.

”And yet we say we have a government, a government which is you,” widowed Mabayi Dudumayo told him, a red plastic bucket of maize for her chickens in one hand.

At Mbeki’s direction, the ANC candidate for the ward — which is currently held by the UDM — wrote down the points she raised, and Mbeki himself assured her they would be attended to.

Dudumayo said afterwards she was glad to have been able to speak her heart to the president.

”Ai shame, he is a nice man. He’s the only person who listens,” she said.

When Mbeki addressed a mini ANC rally of several hundred people at the nearby homestead of Chief Zwelenzima Dudumayo, the vote of thanks was delivered, ironically, by the sitting UDM councillor, Masiza Dudumayo.

Dudumayo explained afterwards that this was a matter of protocol and no reflection on his politics.

”It’s not funny to me because this is my home and I am supposed to give the vote of thanks to the president,” he said.

He was unsure whether Mbeki’s visit would make a difference to the UDM’s support in the area.

”It would depend on the first [March 1, election day]. But I know that I can win. I am supposed to win,” he said.

Mbeki joked from the microphone of the ANC sound truck that he noticed no beast had been slaughtered for him or beer brewed. He said he hoped when he came back to celebrate the ANC victory there would be a beast.

The headman for the area, Milton Dalasile, apologised to him.

”He told us he was going to take a few minutes before he disappeared,” he explained later. ”That’s why I did not give him a beast. I told him I have got a beast to slaughter for him. There is no problem there.”

Earlier, the sound truck, which bore Mbeki’s face and the slogan ”A plan to make local government work better for you”, got stuck in the mud as it was getting into position.

It took the concerted effort of a band of ANC stalwarts to manhandle it on to firm ground again. — Sapa