/ 13 May 2011

Punch-drunk independent holds out against ANC

Punch Drunk Independent Holds Out Against Anc

Ntombizanele Sopeki is taking the punches but refusing to go down. Her posters have been torn down, one of her canvassers was allegedly assaulted by a political opponent and ANC heavyweights have asked her to withdraw as an independent candidate in the Duma Nokwe township in Knysna.

But like the other independent candidates who have entered the race this 33-year-old former ANC activist is continuing to campaign vigorously for votes in the May 18 municipal elections.

The impoverished Duma Nokwe is regarded as an ANC stronghold but Sopeki is now seen as a serious threat in this Southern Cape ward, according to party insiders.

As a result, Sopeki said, Nomaindia Mfeketo, the deputy parliamentary speaker, and Gwede Mantashe, the ANC secretary general, had had separate meetings with her to ask her to step down.

She said the ANC had offered her no inducement but she would never have reconsidered her position. “I’m getting 100% support from my community and it is just too late for me to withdraw.

“I don’t believe President Jacob Zuma’s promise that in wards where candidate lists were shown to have been manipulated the ANC would sack newly elected councillors and hold by-elections.” she said. “Here in Duma Nokwe, our chosen candidate was thrown off the list.

“I have made my sacrifices by agreeing to stand as an independent to represent my community and now I am expecting to win.”

In Cape Town, disappointed members of 16 ANC branches stormed ANC offices in March to protest over changes made to the ANC list and many candidates who did not make it onto the list were expected to stand as independents.

Among them are Thembisile Mbenene in Ward 88 in Philippi; Caiphus Dywili in Ward 41, which encompasses Gugulethu and Manenberg; and Mario Wanza in Wards 42, 45 and 46, spanning areas of Manenberg, Hanover Park, Gugulethu and Newfields.

But one of the most hotly contested areas is Nyanga East, where there is no telling whether dissatisfied ANC members will withhold their votes; vote for the Democratic Alliance, which has a footing in the area; or back Tulani Pike, a former South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) activist who is now standing as an independent candidate in Ward 37 in Nyanga East.

On April 8 police opened fire with rubber bullets when angry Nyanga East residents took to the streets to warn the ANC to withdraw the ward candidate the party had named in the area. They had voted for Lindiwe Batsela and Mxeke Templeton and were shocked when Mzimasi Mansali was named as the party’s candidate.

But Mansali said this week the problems in his ward seemed to have gone away with the help of Zuma. “There are some young people in the ward who believe in the DA, but it is still an ANC stronghold,” said Mansali.

“There were no attempts by any ANC people to stand as independent candidates here. People have expressed their dissatisfaction over the list processes, but President Zuma has now persuaded them to vote. He even came and campaigned here, which makes things much easier.”

This is not putting off 33-year-old Pike, who said he had spent his life savings of about R30000 on his campaign as an independent candidate. He believed unhappy ANC members would vote him in because they felt let down by their party.

“I want to serve my people and there is so much work to be done,” said Pike. “There are dangers for me out there as emotions run high at election time but I am young and I love my community.”