Hard road to 2014: Polling data spooks ANC

The survey, presented by the ANC's deputy secretary general, Jessie Duarte, at a national executive committee (NEC) meeting late last year, showed that ordinary supporters are also unhappy about the conduct of party leaders.

The party's head of organising and campaigns, Nomvula Mokonyane, told the Mail & Guardian this week that key areas of concern raised by ordinary supporters included political infighting, corruption by party leaders and poor service delivery.

The party will hold a strategic election workshop this weekend at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.

"What is good about that survey is that we've taken [accepted] it 100%. That research is very important. We must never take our people for granted. The political infighting, in particular, demoralises our people. People say, 'How can we trust you, comrades, when you're fighting among yourself and killing each other.' That's the sad part," said Mokonyane.

Duarte refused to comment on her presentation. "Your paper is not a branch of the ANC nor is our election strategy an open document. It is our strategy and plan. It is never a publicly debatable document," she said.

Biggest challenge
But an ANC NEC member who asked not to be named said the 2014 general elections were the biggest challenge for the party since the dawn of democracy. The source cited, among other things, the Nkandla scandal, the perceived interference of the Gupta family in government affairs, the Marikana killings, deep divisions within the tripartite alliance, the disintegration of the ANC Youth League and the deployment of troops to the Central African Republic as major challenges for the ANC.

"We want to up the bar for the 2014 elections but the difficulty is these issues. It is going to be a tough one. We are worse off now than ever before."

Another ANC NEC member said there were issues that voters raised repeatedly, including unemployment, corruption, lack of infrastructure and that some leaders were not in touch with the people.

"The trend must be a worry to the organisation. We must be vigilant. We must be worried that people raise these things when we've got a public works department that doesn't spend money well. It's not that government is not trying. Government, on behalf of the ANC, has done its best. These are the things that create anger against the ANC," said the NEC member.

"The decision was that we should do another study in July [2013] to see if maybe people [raised these things] because of Mangaung [the party's elective conference last December] or not.

"We took the results of that survey and compared it with the outcome of the census and the trends are similar.

Detached from the ANC
"The more there's urbanisation and middle-class lifestyle, the more people become detached from the ANC. They no longer attend branch meetings or community gatherings. They don't see the ANC as relevant. The more people get urbanised, the more depoliticised they become. They don't necessarily move to the DA, they just become disinterested."

The NEC member added that the unemployed youth were "more likely to drift to the DA. That's why the ANC thinks we must confront this problem, go out and meet these young people as the ANC. We can't leave that job to the ANC Youth League."

The survey also found:

l Voters switch off from the ANC and its activities by the third year of the party's term in government;

l Urbanisation is eating into the party's support base because the middle class and the super-rich tend to desert the party;

l Unemployed young people pose a threat to party's support base because they can be easily swayed to the opposition, especially the Democratic Alliance;

l Poor rural Africans still support the ANC but are also raising their unhappiness with the party; and

l The coloured vote continues to evade the ANC.

"We are going to use targeting and voter contact to woo everyone, from so-called born-frees, the middle class and the super-rich. We won't go around kissing babies in front of cameras," said Mokonyane.

"We will rely on our volunteers, ward councillors and our 1.4-million members, who will be the foot soldiers of ANC's election campaign. Voter contact with our people will be important," she said.

"Going into this crucial election, we must package our campaign message very carefully. This then calls for different messages and strategies for different demographics, regions and issues. The way you organise people in Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape cannot be the same as you organise people in Dube, Soweto.

"The workshop this weekend will put these things together. We can't unveil every­thing now.

Youth league task team
"In the last elections, we used motorbikes, chisanyamas, car washes and the imvuselelo zabo mama [an occasion to revive one's dedication to a cause] to target potential voters. But we are moving with the times and we'll do things differently. We must celebrate the 20 years of democracy in the course of these elections."

She said the ANC was targeting the 20% of registered voters who were born after the release of Nelson Mandela in order to increase the party's majority during the 2014 national polls.

"We've got 12-million supporters that have put us into power. We now want to talk to the undecided and those who no longer vote for us. We are also targeting 20% of the new voters, who were born after the release of president Nelson Mandela, the so-called the born-frees," Mokonyane said.

The party this week appointed theyouth league's national task team, comprising leaders such as Shaka Sisulu, the grandson of the late ANC stalwart Water Sisulu, who the party believes will attract potential young voters. The ANC will also count on the newly established forum of black professionals to grow voter support. The forum is the brainchild of a former government spin doctor, Jimmy Manyi, and will target black intellectuals, or the so-called "clever blacks".

Mokonyane said the ANC did not plan to undermine other parties. "We won't undermine our opponents. Our campaign will not be negative and will focus less about the opposition. We will speak about ourselves.

"We must tell a story about our achievements [over the past 20 years]. We must say this is what happened since we came to power in 1994. We did that [which] was never done. We will say, go to your neighbour and say, you were one of those who were unemployed and now you have a job, you are HIV and you're now receiving a single pill, for example, you have a house, and so on.

"People must understand that undoing 300 years of our misery may not change over 20 years and we've never said we will change everything in 20 years.

"We will say to our people we have a plan. Give us the opportunity to proceed because we believe it is the ANC and the ANC only that can turn this country [in]to a better place."

But Mokonyane was coy about how much the ANC would spend on its election campaign, although the M&G believes it will be millions to coincide with 20 years of democracy since the end of apartheid.

"We are going to the strategy workshop and the strategy workshop will come with the plan that is costed and everything.

"The election campaign is not only the responsibility of members. Our supporters often help. We have a presence in almost 96% of the wards in this country. Resources are very important for your campaign to be functional.

"We're going to do with what we have but we rely mostly on the 1.4-million members of the ANC. They are our immediate foot soldiers. It starts with President [Jacob] Zuma and it ends up with the last member who was audited before Mangaung," she said.

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Charles Molele
Guest Author
Matuma Letsoala
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Mmanaledi Mataboge
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