ANC unifier’s bold Western Cape vision

The ANC in the Western Cape must get rid of boardroom politics and take the fight against the Democratic Alliance to the streets and social media. This is the view of Faiez Jacobs (42), the party’s newly elected provincial secretary.

He believes the ANC is its own worst enemy in the province: it has lost touch with voters and taken its constituency for granted, leading to the DA’s tight grip there.

Jacobs is planning to change that, but acknowledges that the party needs to get its act together before the 2016 local government elections.

The Western Cape is the only province not governed by the ANC. Factionalism, infighting and a general lack of confidence in the party’s provincial leadership have been blamed for its poor electoral performance, but Jacobs hopes to change all of that.

Key to the party’s plan is regaining the trust of the province’s majority population group – coloured people – and beating itself into shape by next year.

“We took our constituency for granted and for me that is a key lesson,” Jacobs says. “I believe the Western Cape electorate is a very clever one and we need to be truthful and ensure whoever we put up as candidates are best for that community.”

“We need to listen,” he says. “Sometimes there is so much noise that we don’t engage with real issues. We need to appreciate that the Western Cape is complex. That race, class and gender is a key thing. We want the ANC member to become an activist. We don’t want to sit in meetings and boardrooms anymore.”

Jacobs believes the provincial ANC must make better use of social media to reach out to voters.

“We need to modernise so that the party can be much more responsive to our constituency. We are still slow. This provincial leadership is willing to understand what needs to be done [to reach the voter]. We are not resistant to change.”

Jacobs, a father of three, has been involved in politics for most of his life. He edged his out his predecessor, Songezo Mjongile, by six votes, securing 338 of the 670, but says he had no ambitions of contesting for the post until he was convinced to do so by branches.

Jacobs believes his activism record, which includes being a student leader in the 1980s, a member of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, and serving as provincial education secretary for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union in the 1990s, would come in handy in his new job.

Born in Mitchells Plain, Jacobs worked for the national government’s local government department, but resigned on Wednesday to join the ANC on a full-time basis. The former political detainee holds a master’s degree in public management.   

Seen as a unifier by many ANC Western Cape members, Jacobs says he will work with everyone, including those who supported Mjongile. And he rules out any purges of detractors during his term of office.

“We want to ensure that we get everyone in the house that is prepared to make a constructive contribution. There is a lot of work to be done and a place for everyone,” he says.

“For too long there has been a culture of ‘them and us’ and that has demoralised our supporters. I am going to be professional and serve all the branches. We are starting with a clean slate. We don’t want to use our time to fight [each other].”

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