ANC snubs alliance partners

ANC and local government officials handed out houses in Marikana in early January but President Jacob Zuma, who it was announced would be present, stayed away. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

ANC and local government officials handed out houses in Marikana in early January but President Jacob Zuma, who it was announced would be present, stayed away. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Preparations for the ANC’s biggest bash of the year have been rocked by protests over patronage and positions, and fights with its alliance partners about a place in the sun at Rustenburg’s Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Saturday.

There were also reported fist fights between local Rustenburg and Gauteng-based sex workers over business on a weekend that traditionally sees businesspeople, party sympathisers and political high-flyers converge for the ANC’s traditional January 8 birthday bash.

Feathers have been ruffled by the ANC’s decision not to allow its alliance partners, the South African Communist Party and the trade union federation Cosatu, to deliver their traditional messages of support on the day, citing a need to keep things short because of a heat wave that has seen temperatures in the town soaring to more than 40°C this week.

At least three ANC organisers privately questioned, and even ridiculed, the announcement by the party at a preparatory press conference on Tuesday that the alliance partners would not be speaking.

They blamed the “premier league” faction in the ANC, which is opposed to the critical voices of Cosatu and the SACP, for this move.

Leaders of the alliance partners and the ANC’s leagues are traditionally afforded a few minutes on stage before the ANC president’s speech to express their support for the party.

The ANC Gauteng caucus spokesperson, Gugu Ndima, posted on her Facebook page that it was the first time she had heard of people being that disgruntled about the decision, although the same decision was made for the party’s 2012 centenary celebrations.

“I hope the headquarters will soon release a poise [sic] statement to clarify the matter on the alliance partners addressing at the January 8 celebrations and say it was an ‘unfortunate miscommunication’,” she posted.

She said it was necessary for the alliance to remain “strong and solid” ahead of “an overwhelming victory” in the local government elections later this year.

But ANC spokesperson Khusela Sangoni said she wasn’t aware of any decision not to allow the party’s alliance partners to speak. “The programme was only presented and adopted yesterday [Wednesday, at an ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting] and it never had an issue of the alliance not speaking.”

A small group of ANC members also rocked the sweltering North West town on Monday when police used tear gas to disperse a protest against North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, who they accuse of dispensing patronage to those in his circle.

They were also unhappy about the process of drawing up the ANC’s lists for the local government elections later this year.

An organiser said a local leader in the North West unfairly tried to “take control” of the election list processes of councillors.

He also cited the water supply problems that have beset several towns in the province, including allegations that the tenders for the water tankers were irregularly awarded.

But the organiser said they would not attempt to cause an upset at Saturday’s rally.

“Where we’re standing, we are saying we’ve had enough of Supra, he is a demagogue. We will let him speak at the rally on Saturday, but the ANC must understand this is not uhuru [freedom]; we are not happy about Supra.
He is a modern-time dictator, but the [ANC’s] NEC is afraid of him because he is the premier league,” said of the protesters.

Mahumapelo, Free State Premier Ace Magashule and Mpumalanga Premier DD Mabuza comprise the powerful group. The North West premier has previously called on President Jacob Zuma to stand for a third term as ANC president at the party’s 2017 conference.

By Thursday, Rustenburg was draped in the green, black and gold party colours, with a huge banner at one of the entrances to the town welcoming supporters and revellers.

Sex workers
While party venues were gearing up to profit from the high-flyers, sex workers were also reportedly looking to profit from the occasion. A fist fight among a group of sex workers last week, confirmed by the police, was apparently because of sex workers from out of town coming to Rustenburg to do business.

One woman’s car windscreen was also reportedly smashed.

It was alleged that sex workers from Gauteng had booked guest houses and rooms in hotels and were using their cars to solicit business.

A Rustenburg sex worker in Heystek Street, one of the red-light hot spots in the town, said business had been quiet this week.

The Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) is said to have intervened in last week’s altercation, but attempts to find a spokesperson who was at work this week were fruitless.

Sweat’s Sally Shackleton said she was not aware of the specific incident but confirmed there was a lot of competition for business in Rustenburg. “We hope the decriminalisation of sex work will be on the ANC’s agenda,” she said. The ANC Women’s League had in the past expressed support for the move but not much had come of it yet, she said.

Smooth organisation
Despite the grumblings, organisers are confident that the ANC’s mobilisation efforts will fill the 50 000-seater stadium, which was renovated for the World Cup in 2010.

“Historically, North West is not an easy province for us. You get shocked by some of their battles and you wonder why they are still fighting about those issues,” one of the organisers said, adding that the stadium could be too small for the estimated 120 000 people expected, based on those branch members who had shown an interest in attending.

She said there had been improvements in the performance of local municipalities, which meant ­people had confidence in the governing party.

All eyes will be on President Jacob Zuma, also the ANC president, when he is expected to announce the ANC’s agenda for the year. Although both the ANC and the SACP were mum on what to expect, saying they did not want to steal Zuma’s thunder, Cosatu had a clear wish list.

Its spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, said Cosatu wanted “radical proposals” on how economic transformation and traditional challenges such as poverty, inequality and unemployment, would be addressed, as well as dealing with the economy, which has been struggling.

“We should also implement some of the policies we have been sitting on for some time and that have resulted in unemployment,” he said.

Pamla added the ANC didn’t go far enough during last year’s national general council on what remained to be done in this regard.

Social security was also an issue he wanted to see on the agenda.

Pamla said Cosatu also wanted to see “a sober, honest critique of the alliance’s relations”, which has been strained in recent times with leaders criticising each other.

“For the local government elections, we are expecting to hear what the plan would be. In 2011, only Cosatu could deploy campaigners in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, but we’re not sure about now,” he said.

The ANC Youth League president, Collen Maine, said the league was also concerned about alliance unity and campaigning in the run-up to the elections.

“We also expect ANC to say this year we are going to local government elections, what are our achievements in local government and what are the challenges,” he said.

Another pressing issue was free education and the fees must fall protest. “We want the ANC to clarify the issue of free education,” he said, because it was in the party’s policies but it had not been fully implemented.

The ANC Women’s League president, Bathabile Dlamini, said the litmus test for a democratic South Africa wasn’t only in the number of houses and schools built, but also “the degree to which it addresses the issues of women”.

She said women “across racial and political lines need to be mobilised around building a single society. The racist pronouncements recently in the public domain tell us that this remains a key challenge.”

She said the widening gap between the rich and poor remained the country’s biggest problem, “and it is women at the receiving end”.

“So we call upon all women to organise and build unity and re-launch the mass base of the ANC through the ANC Women’s League, actively involve all women, especially the young women, in the struggle for the emancipation of South African women,” she said.

On Thursday, the league launched a young women’s desk, which it hopes will encourage younger women to join the league and air their issues.

Pontsho Pilane

Pontsho Pilane

Pontsho Pilane is a health journalist at Bhekisisa, the Mail & Guardian's health journalism centre. She debuted as a journalist at The Daily Vox, where she wrote primarily about gender, race and how they intersect. She was previously a general news reporter at the M&G. Pilane holds two degrees in media studies from Wits University.
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