ANC savvy in KZN leaves IFP behind

Last Saturday eMangusi, a pokey single-street town 22km from the Farazela border post between South Africa and Mozambique, was throbbing with heat and the unequivocal message that the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal was on the ­campaign trail again.

At a rally following the ANC’s 99th birthday celebrations the previous weekend the eMangusi sports complex shuddered as internationally acclaimed house DJ Siyanda laid down beats for South African Music Award-winning hip-hop outfit Big Nuz. More than 12 000 people, all clad in yellow ANC T-shirts, all waving party flags, responded deliriously.

Councillors and provincial MPs had moulted out of their suits and into their “everyman” gear of designer jeans and ANC T-shirts. A constipated look of awkwardness and panic was etched on the faces of the more serious-minded ones, including workaholic provincial chairperson and premier Zweli Mkhize, as they bowed to the demand of the mass gathering to dance.

On one side of the ground Nhlakanipho Ntombela, the ANC’s provincial head of mobilisation and election events, watched over the yellow phalanx of people, responding to the speakers on stage.

Ntombela has been based in this area close to Kosi Bay since January 2, driving the door-to-door visits and voter registration campaigns, while sorting out the logistics of the rally.
He couldn’t resist a satisfied grin: “This is the ANC, baba. This is how we do it.”

Indeed, it is how the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal do it. Slick, sophisticated and with an understanding of how to position itself as hip and rocking as it pitches to the province’s large ­percentage of young voters.

Election machine
The ANC’s election machine is one of the main reasons; in the 2009 poll the party suffered electoral losses in seven of the eight provinces, but leapt from a 47,47% share of the KwaZulu-Natal vote in 2004 to a staggering 62,94%. Party insiders expect a similar trend in this year’s municipal elections. But nothing is being taken for granted.

Having launched its election campaign in November last year, well before any other ANC province, the KwaZulu-Natal machine—driven by members and oiled by popular musicians and celebrities—is not waiting for the launch of the election manifesto.

Especially when the election campaign of its traditional foe, the Inkatha Freedom Party, has been paralysed by a debilitating succession battle.

Ntombela says the ANC’s campaign is on track, but he remains concerned about the list process for councillors. The party has decided to open its nomination process to ordinary community members for input, which Ntombela says “is effective and democratic. But the anxieties over who will make the list, who won’t, and how long the appeal process over nominations will take is not good, especially when we’re trying to stay focused on winning.”

There are concerns that appeals will first be heard at regional level, where the leadership is generally made up of existing councillors and mayors with an obvious interest in who makes the lists.

Will it be harder to remove well-connected but underperforming councillors because of this procedural hierarchy? Ntombela acknowledges the problem, but suggests that oversight by the provincial list committee will ensure the process returns hard workers and listens to communities.

eMangusi rally
The eMangusi rally was a successful show of force in an IFP stronghold. The Umhlabuyalingana local municipality, into which eMangusi falls, is a traditional IFP stronghold, but was placed under provincial administration in 2009 due to poor governance.

The rally was also a targeted follow-up to the ANC’s grassroots work in the area over five years, coupled with the advantages of running the provincial government and focusing on service delivery in specific areas.

When the eMangusi area was ravaged by cross-border hijacking raids in 2007 and 2008 the ANC spotted a gap and mobilised tirelessly around security issues, holding marches and alerting the national government and police commissioner. It has since built on this campaign to draw new members from other parties.

A 54-year-old local teacher told the Mail & Guardian that she was an IFP Youth Brigade member in the 1970s, but was now an ANC member: “This,” she said pointing to the stage where provincial tripartite alliance leaders were talking about jobs, “is where the zabalaza (struggle) is.”

Last week the KwaZulu-Natal government announced a R6,5-million programme to clean up the town, which consists largely of dilapidated buildings, lean-tos and rudimentary wooden homes and stalls.

It also announced a R9-million electrification project for the nearby Manaba traditional community that, according to Lennox Mabaso of the local government department, will simplify the electrification of the UmKhanyakude district municipality.

Improving the community
The municipality, which includes areas such as Hluhluwe, Jozini and Sodwana Bay, comprises five local councils: False Bay, Hlabisa, Jozini, Mtubatuba and Umhlabuyalingana.

It is one of the province’s most impoverished areas, with high unemployment; roads and schools—if they exist—in dire need of repair and a water and electricity backlog. The KwaZulu-Natal government has channelled more than R600-million towards RDP housing in uMkhanyakude in the past six years.

The dovetailing of party and government activity is bearing fruit. In the 2004 election in Umhlabuyalingana the ANC garnered 38,66% of the vote compared with the IFP’s 55,56%. In 2009 the ANC share of the vote rose to 66,55%, while the IFP’s slumped to 33,31%.

The trend can be seen in other parts of the province. Ntombela says the ANC is intent on consolidating control in all the areas where it made inroads in 2009 and that the plan is to increase the 29 councils, of a total of 62, that it currently holds.

The ANC has established a presence at all the tertiary institutions in KwaZulu-Natal and has even embarked on a drive to register ­voters who are still at school.

An ANC official smirks when he says: “We have most of the amakhosi in Umkhanyakude on our side.” Traditional leaders in KwaZulu-Natal have played a key role in delivering the rural vote and the signs are that the IFP is losing its grip on them.

Ntombela says there has been a natural generational shift in the political outlook of the amakhosi and the indunas: “The older ones have been dying and the younger successors are important in unlocking rural areas for us,” he says.

There are other reasons for the shift, however. Through legislation, including the KwaZulu-Natal Traditional Leadership and Governance Act, the amakhosi and the indunas now draw salaries and pensions, while the provincial government is building them official residences.

Twenty such homes were built last year alone. Ntombela also acknowledges the attraction the ANC, through President Jacob Zuma, has for Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini and the amakhosi.

Such has been the shift from the IFP that its president, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, suffered the indignity of withdrawing his candidacy from the 2009 election of a new chairperson for the provincial house of traditional leaders, a position he had held since 1994, after it became clear that he would lose.

As the municipal elections approach, Buthelezi’s party, torn by the imminent expulsion of its chairperson, the popular Zanele Magwaza-Msibi, is being overshadowed by the vigour, strategic nous and sense of purpose of its bitterest foe.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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