Will Nkandla fall to the DA?

Battle royal: The DA has set its sights on governing the Nkandla municipality. The party was denied entry to Zuma’s controversial property during a march in 2012. (Rogan Ward/Reuters)

Battle royal: The DA has set its sights on governing the Nkandla municipality. The party was denied entry to Zuma’s controversial property during a march in 2012. (Rogan Ward/Reuters)

  The Democratic Alliance has embarked on an ambitious bid to win control of President Jacob Zuma’s rural hometown of Nkandla in the August local government elections.

The party’s campaign to govern the country’s famous village received a major boost after National Freedom Party (NFP) councillor Sophie Buthelezi agreed to cross the floor and stand as DA mayoral candidate.

The opposition party already has two branches in the area. Zuma’s village is under the control of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), from which the NFP broke away in 2011.

  DA KwaZulu-Natal leader Zwakele Mncwango told the Mail & Guardian that the party was training its sights on marginalised areas traditionally regarded as ANC strongholds.
“We are targeting new voters and young people in rural areas across the province, but Nkandla is strategically important because that’s President Zuma’s home,” said Mncwango.

In 2012, Helen Zille, then leader of the DA, led a march to Zuma’s home in protest against the controversial state-funded security upgrades it had undergone. The march was physically blocked by ANC supporters.

But the DA believes it will be able to campaign effectively in the area this time around. “I can tell you right now that we are growing in the rural areas, and we believe people in Nkandla are looking for a change,” said Mncwango.

The DA is relying on the experience of Buthelezi, who became a councillor in Nkandla after the 2011 local government elections in which the NFP won three wards in the area.

  Buthelezi declined to discuss her next political move when contacted by the M&G this week, but the DA confirmed her as its mayoral candidate. She had previously been listed as a confidential candidate.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the party was growing and expressed confidence that people who were tired of corruption, including those in Nkandla, would vote for his party. “People can see in places where we have governed that we offer better services than any other political party.”

Maimane said the DA had received many requests from traditional and religious leaders who were keen to join the party, but it did not have enough structures on the ground in remote areas.

But Nkandla mayor Arthur Ntuli said having the DA contesting the area would only work to the IFP’s advantage – because the DA would not enter into coalition with the ANC. The IFP lost Nkandla to an ANC-NFP coalition in the 2011 municipal elections, but the coalition collapsed after by-elections in 2012, putting the IFP back in charge.

People in the area, said Ntuli, view the R246‑million spent on upgrades to Zuma’s mansion as a symbol of patronage and corruption. “People see the president’s fence has electricity but their houses around the fence have no electricity, and it makes them angry.”

The ANC chairperson in the area, Bahle Sibiya, said the DA was wasting its time campaigning in Nkandla and confidently predicted his party would claim control of the municipality without the need of a coalition. He said people in Nkandla still loved the ruling party and that they did not have any problems with Zuma. “We are working hard to win back Nkandla and it is going to happen in this coming election.”

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