/ 20 May 2011

List wrangles: The people speak in Knysna

“I have taught the ANC a lesson that it must listen to the decisions of its members,” said Ntombizanele Sopeki on Thursday, shortly after her victory in Knysna’s impoverished Duma Nokwe township was confirmed.

The former diehard ANC member stood as an independent — and won her ward from the ruling party.

She defected after claiming the ANC had let its members down by tampering with its candidates list. “I was the only independent to stand in Knysna and when I heard I had won the tears fell long and hard,” she said.

As results of the local government elections streamed in it became increasingly obvious that this election was becoming a war between the African National Congress and the Democratic Alliance. The Mail&Guardian asked smaller parties what they thought about the possibility of coalitions and if they thought South Africa was becoming a two-party state.

“The people have now spoken and voted me in and I will live among them and help uplift the community.”

Sopeki, who was sponsored in her campaign by business people in the area, won by a mere 109 votes. Independent Electoral Commission figures showed that 3 400 valid votes were cast in the ward. The mother of three agreed to stand as an independent in this ANC stronghold after the candidate selected by the community, Victor Molosi, was taken off the party’s candidate lists.

Molosi is widely regarded as a supporter of former ANC provincial chairperson Mcebisi Skwatsha, the rival of Marius Fransman, his replacement in the Western Cape. A popular ward councillor since 2006, Molosi is believed to have fallen victim to slate politics. He declined to stand as an independent, saying he was a loyal ANC member.

Around the country ANC members complained about the manipulation of the lists after communities were given the chance to select their own candidates for the first time. In Cape Town disappointment over the manipulation of the lists provoked 16 branches in the province to storm the ANC offices in March. Many of the metro’s disgruntled communities were placated when President Jacob Zuma vowed that the ANC would sack its newly elected councillors in wards where lists were shown to have been manipulated, and subject itself to by-elections.

But 33-year-old Sopeki was not swayed by Zuma’s promises and, despite threats to her life, continued campaigning among the 5 300 voters in Duma Nokwe. She held a meeting with ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe in Knysna last week and said he gently suggested she should “come back home”.

“I told him I had to stand as an independent and he was very understanding after I explained the reason I had to make the voice of my community heard,” she said. “I still find it hard to believe I met one of the top dogs in the ANC. He was so nice and we sat around talking politics.”

Sopeki said her priority was to try to move people out of shacks and to “help the community round the clock”.

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