'Give us back our candidate'
An agitated Ntombizanele Sopeki of Knysna pointed to a handwritten placard held aloft by a crowd of singing protesters outside the ANC provincial offices in Cape Town this week.
It claimed that Victor Molosi was a “born leader”, whereas the candidate who had been unexpectedly placed on the list as a potential councillor in Knysna’s Duma Nokwe community, Welcome Salaze, was a “fake”. “Molosi lives in a wooden shack, not a brick house. He’s one of us and he helps us all the time,” Sopeki told the Mail & Guardian. “If someone dies, he digs into his pocket and pays for the funeral.”
David Ngxale, a South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) leader from the Duma Nokwe branch, said the “imposed candidate” had been a member of the Congress of the People, who had joined the ANC only in 2009. “We’re largely a coloured community and Salaze speaks only Xhosa, and not any Afrikaans,” he said. “How is he even going to be able to communicate with us?”
The 28 members of the Duma Nokwe branch made the five-hour trip from the Western Cape’s Garden Route by taxi to complain to the provincial executive committee (PEC) that the changes made to the candidate lists of ward councillors for the May 18 local government elections were “unacceptable”. A collection for the R6 000 needed to transport them to Cape Town was held in the impoverished Duma Nokwe community.
The group was among the many ANC members from Knysna, Boland and the Cape metro Dullah Omar region who descended on the offices to complain about the changes to the lists. A number of the protesters said the changes stemmed from factional battles between the camp led by chairperson of the Western Cape ANC, Marius Fransman, and his rival, former chairperson Mcebisi Skwatsha.
Fransman was elected unopposed at the ANC provincial conference in February after Skwatsha stood down, claiming that the process had been “fraudulent”. The protesters accused the newly installed PEC of putting forward its list of preferred candidates and disregarding the preferences of communities, which had chosen their own candidates at general meetings of ANC branches.
Riot police descended on the ANC offices to disperse members of the angry crowd, some of whom refused to let six PEC members leave the building. The door to the fourth-floor ANC office was damaged, as were computers when the crowd tried to force its way inside on Tuesday. Provincial secretary general Songezo Mjongile complained at a press conference at another venue on Wednesday that the party was “still trying to clean up our offices”. Mjongile said “strong disciplinary action” would be taken against all those who stormed the ANC offices and threatened the leadership.
However, it was clear that the ANC could lose much-needed votes in the Western Cape municipal elections unless it addresses members’ concerns. The Knysna group members told the M&G they would not vote unless Molosi, a popular ward councillor since 2006, was put back on the list. Salaze was aligned to the Fransman camp, they alleged.
“We eventually came to an agreement with the PEC that they must send a delegation to Knysna to listen to the community and hear about why we voted for certain candidates,” said Ngxale. “They want to get people into these positions for their own benefit and for the benefit of their friends.”
Twenty-year-old ANC activist Nandipha Msindwana said ward 41 of Gugulethu chose her father, Emmanuel Maneli Msindwana, in February. However, during the Dullah Omar regional conference on Saturday night members discovered that his name had been taken off the list. “My father has represented us for many years. He’s a leader of Sanco and of Cosatu and he’s chairperson of our branch in the ANC,” Msindwana said with feeling.
She added that the community had decided to call a public meeting about the matter. “We won’t vote if they don’t give us back our candidate,” she warned. “My father is a supporter of Skwatsha, but we are not in any camp. We just chose the candidate we wanted.” Msindwana was replaced on the list by Nolkuleko Zweni, who is now refusing to stand. Zweni had also been standing as a ward councillor for the area but lost to Msindwana at the branch meeting.
“The reason I won’t stand is that the community decided Msindwana should be their councillor and I won’t go against that,” said Zweni. “They’ve spoken and that’s it.” Zweni said nobody had told her that Msindwana’s name would be taken off the list and that she would be replacing him.
The Independent Electoral Commission requires the lists to be submitted by Friday. Branches handed in their candidate lists earlier this month and apparently noticed that candidates had been changed only when they received correspondence from the PEC.
It was not the first time ANC lists have been changed, claimed some protesters. Gwede Mantashe, secretary general of the ANC, issued a statement this week, claiming that “most” ANC candidate listings are products of nominations at branch general meetings.
The ANC was registering all its candidates around the country this week and Mantashe reiterated the party’s position that all disputes should be resolved internally. “The national list committee of the ANC exercised its own prerogative to ensure that gender parity, representivity and continuity were adhered to, for all provinces to deliver a gender-balanced list,” he said.
“In a number of provinces the list committee intervened to ensure that candidates who resided in a particular ward were selected, ensuring demographic representivity.” Mantashe acknowledged that in the Western Cape the ANC was “witnessing some degree of dispute” around the Dullah Omar region. “We appeal to all cadres of our movement in the Western Cape to accept decisions taken to ensure that the principles and policies of our organisation are adhered to,” he said.
ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu said that there were two pending court actions lodged by members who did not make it on to the list in the Eastern Cape. The regions affected were Alfred Nzo (Matatiele and Umzimvubu local municipalities) and Buffalo City (East London), he said.