ANC gets ready for Nelson Mandela Bay battle

The DA’s mayoral candidate for Nelson Mandela Bay, Athol Trollip, held a rally outside the office of incumbent Danny Jordaan this week, sparking the ire of ANC supporters. (Michael Sheehan, AFP)

The DA’s mayoral candidate for Nelson Mandela Bay, Athol Trollip, held a rally outside the office of incumbent Danny Jordaan this week, sparking the ire of ANC supporters. (Michael Sheehan, AFP)

The ANC has rolled into Port Elizabeth in a bid to stem its loss of support there, as has happened throughout the country.

National and provincial leaders have crisscrossed the Eastern Cape in recent days to mobilise supporters for this weekend’s launch of the party’s local government election manifesto in Nelson Mandela Bay metro municipality that incorporates Uitenhage and Despatch.

The party has promised to attract 110 000 supporters to an event at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium that organiser Nomvula Mokonyane, the minister of water affairs and sanitation, said would be “something out of the extraordinary”.

The ANC is keen to prevent the Democratic Alliance adding the metro to its arsenal of opposition strongholds that includes the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape.

With the ANC’s latest polled support – in the 2014 general election – standing at 48.5% in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, down from 51.9% in the 2011 poll, the opposition believes that it has a genuine shot at governing the municipality after the August 3 local elections.

Guaranteeing supporters
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the party had organised 4 000 buses and 3 000 taxis to ferry supporters to the launch.

He said the party wasn’t worried about its speakers being booed on the day.

“I don’t understand why people would want to go to the stadium to do such a thing. It would not address their issues. If you go on a door-to-door [campaign], you can address those issues,” he said.

Last Friday, a visit by President Jacob Zuma tested the province’s political waters when he addressed more than 2 000 people in a large marquee at the Port Elizabeth harbour on an ocean economy project.

As with many government gatherings in the province, most of the audience wore yellow ANC T-shirts, while some carried flags and joined in songs praising Zuma.

Q: What is your most inspirational quote from Nelson Mandela?
A: Madiba’s quotable quotes span across all sectors of society.
At this moment it is: “We have to ensure that the economy serves the interests of the people as a whole, is geared to end the terrible poverty and deprivation that is the legacy of the apartheid system, and grows at a rate  and in a manner which will enable all the people to enjoy a decent and rising standard of living.” – Nelson Mandela Bay metro mayor Danny Jordaan

The Constitutional Court recently ruled that Zuma had failed to uphold the Constitution regarding the public protector’s report on public spending on his Nkandla home. This has led to ANC fears that public differences in the party on whether Zuma should step down could scupper election campaigning.

Job creation tops all party manifestos in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, with its 36% unemployment rate. Corruption, crime, gangsterism, rubbish removal, street lights and housing also feature as issues.

Booed in the ‘friendly city’
Zuma hasn’t always had an easy ride in this metro, where 17% voted for the breakaway Congress of the People (Cope) in 2009, shortly after former president Thabo Mbeki was sacked by the ANC. The ANC’s support correspondingly fell from 66.5% in 2006 to 50.1% in 2009.

It was Cope’s largest metro presence and, although that party’s support has since declined, the ANC has failed to win back many of the supporters it lost. Some of Cope’s spoils were divided between the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which received 41.2% and 4% of the 2014 vote respectively.

Zuma has on occasion either been booed or prevented from speaking while campaigning in the “friendly city”. On Reconciliation Day last year, he had a lukewarm reception at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, where he addressed a hall sporting many empty chairs.

The Mail & Guardian has learned that some ANC leaders have had a similarly cool reception in the Eastern Cape. For instance, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was told by students at the Walter Sisulu University in her East London constituency that they were “too busy” to accommodate her outreach programme.

There was also a poor showing of metro branches last Friday at the Nangoza Jebe Hall in New Brighton, where Zuma was expected but did not show up. ANC provincial executive committee member Andile Lungisa said the meeting was a success.

Q: What is your most inspirational quote from Nelson Mandela?
There are so many quotes, but this is the most apposite at this time: “If the ANC government does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.” – Aspirant mayor Athol Trollip

Another wake-up call for the ANC was last August’s by-election loss to the United Democratic Movement (UDM) in the metro’s ward 30, which incorporates the impoverished Veeplaas area and the black middle-class suburb of KwaMagxaki.

The ward had previously been an ANC stronghold, with the party capturing 64% of the vote in 2011 and the UDM a mere 1%. But only four years later the UDM won the ward with a 49% majority, while the ANC’s support dipped to 42% and the DA received 9% of the vote.

Veeplaas is symbolically important because it is where struggle stalwarts Govan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba are buried.

“The reason why the ANC chose to let these people sleep there is because it’s their heart, and their strongest region. Before the elections Zuma went to campaign there, and he told the people the ANC was going to win,” said UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani, who is running for mayor of the metro.

“The ANC was promising them bread and butter all the time, and then they wait and there is nothing.”

Honest leader
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa is regarded as an honest leader by many in the Bay area, and opposition campaigners believe the UDM could draw some ANC protest votes in the August elections.

Zuma visited the metro after the by-election and reportedly warned local ANC leaders that the party risked losing its ascendancy in this hub of proud struggle history.

Port Elizabeth was at the centre of the anti-pass laws Defiance Campaign in the 1950s and consumer boycotts in the 1970s and 1980s. The first Umkhonto weSizwe cell was established in New Brighton.

A major problem for the party has been a fractured regional leadership and its inability to convene a conference since the regional executive committee was dissolved in December 2014.

In the city itself, the ANC has appointed three mayors and fired two since 2011, amid reports of corruption and maladministration that have seen the metro go broke, stalling important projects such as the R2?billion integrated public transport system.

On top of that, it has lost the support of metalworkers union Numsa, which broke away from labour federation Cosatu in 2014 and which was once one of the ANC’s strongest election campaigning forces in the Eastern Cape.

New party
The United Front’s (UF) political commissar, Fieldmore Mapeto, said Numsa would now campaign for this new party, which has already identified candidates in seven wards.

“The United Front will contest elections under the banner of power to the people,” he said.

But it’s unclear how much support the worker-aligned UF will draw, given criticism by other opposition parties that it has been slow to get off the ground.

Mapeto wouldn’t reveal regional Numsa membership numbers, but claimed a nationwide membership of up to 500 000, taking into account the January 2014 figure of 340 000.

An Ipsos opinion poll indicated that mayor Danny Jordaan’s celebrity status could yet rescue the Mandela Bay metro for the ANC. Of the 974 respondents interviewed in September and October, 47.8% supported Jordaan, while 43.4% backed the ANC. DA mayoral candidate Athol Trollip clocked a mere 13.1%, compared to 31.8% for the DA.

Trollip, however dismissed the poll, saying it was conducted when Jordaan had been mayor for only five months.

Above 40%
The DA’s support should now be above the 40.1% it obtained in 2011 because it has been doing door-to-door campaigning since September, he said.

“A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since October. Danny hasn’t delivered much,” Trollip said.

The DA’s campaign against Jordaan includes slamming him for paying world football body Fifa $10?million ahead of the 2010 football World Cup. Jordaan has denied that the money was a bribe.

The DA will have its work cut out to retain and increase support in the northern areas, its biggest coloured base in the country, and to increase its backing in largely black areas.

“We do a tracking poll, so we know what’s going on. The greatest fear for the ANC is that the ANC is losing even more coloured votes, despite appointing Danny Jordaan,” Trollip said. The coloured people have been “completely marginalised and excluded here, by the ‘nationalist’ government”, he said.

Big guns such as former party leaders Helen Zille and Tony Leon, as well as current leader Mmusi Maimane, have been roped in to help the party win the metro.

Racial overtones
But squabbles with racial overtones following the DA’s list processes have threatened to stand in the way of a smooth campaign. Trollip told a rousing and packed rally at the Chetty community hall last Friday: “We’re gonna fight a campaign to win this metro. We are not going to fight among ourselves.”

The 2011 census reflects that 23.6% of the metro’s population is coloured, 14.4% is white and 60.1% is black.

Trollip, hoping for an all-out win, wouldn’t speculate about a possible governing coalition, but the EFF’s Lwando Mjekula said the party might consider such an arrangement. In anticipation of governing, the EFF has opened an office in Port Elizabeth’s Govan Mbeki Avenue, cheekily close to the city hall.

Cope, which has six council seats, might stand a chance to join such a coalition but, like its derelict offices next to Adult World in central PE, the party needs help.

Cope’s media officer and candidate hopeful Thembelani Kondile, who tries to keep things together from a modest one-roomed constituency office in Zwide, said: “It is in the nature of politics that leaders come and go, but Cope is getting stronger each and every day.”

Long overshadowed by the political powerhouses to its north and south, Nelson Mandela Bay is set to be the stage for a national battle for the will of the people. – Additional reporting by Max Matavire

ANC aims to retain its metros

Horror stories about how resources are unevenly distributed along racial lines in the Democratic Alliance-controlled Western Cape will form part of the ANC’s campaign to retain the metros it currently controls.

ANC elections organiser Nomvula Mokonyane said the ANC would not “take metros as being easy things” to win: “We need the electorate to imagine that happening [the ANC losing to the DA].

“I don’t want to talk about what they are doing in the Western Cape. We have seen the R3-billion of services [rolled out] to consolidate what they are doing, and yet Khayelitsha and Site C remain the same,” she said. “We will give our all to Tshwane, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela, Ekurhuleni and Bloemfontein.”

The campaigns and “interventions” will not be based on what the opposition is saying, but “what the ANC is capable of doing and planning to do”.

The party is also calling on branches and structures that debated the Constitutional Court judgment on Nkandla to “focus on the manifesto and go out to the communities” instead.

The DA has already announced its mayoral candidates for the major metros where its campaigns have kicked off. In the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, the DA’s campaign will be just under a year long by the time of the August 3 elections. The metro is one of the prize gems being eyed for the taking by the opposition.

Johannesburg, Africa’s economic hub, could also be lost by the ANC, and the issues to do with Nkandla aren’t helping. The ANC’s support fell sharply to only 52.3% in the 2014 elections, from 59.3% in 2011, whereas the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) enjoy growing support in the city.

Tshwane is another metro teetering on the brink, where the ANC had 56.5% of the vote in 2011 and the DA 38.7%. In 2014 the ANC’s support there dropped to just below 50%. In Ekurhuleni the ANC’s 62.2% of the vote in 2011 dropped to 55.1% in 2014.

In all three Gauteng metros the EFF stepped into the game in 2014 with just over 10% of the vote. The test will be to see if they can build on this in the August election.

As for Cape Town, the ANC seems to have accepted that the metro, which has been run by the DA for the past decade, remains out of reach for the immediate future.

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