While the ANC has attempted to downplay the number of its officials opting to contest the local government elections independently, Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie has offered them money to campaign.
The Mail & Guardian has learnt that, in return, McKenzie wants the former ANC councillors to cross over to his party and potentially represent the PA in council, or grow its support base leading up to the 2019 general elections.
McKenzie’s provincial party leaders have been meeting with independent candidates in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro to negotiate a cash injection which would provide the independent candidates with much needed resources to put up posters, organise rallies and community meetings.
The PA will contest for power in at least five wards in Nelson Mandela Bay, consisting of mostly coloured areas. The party’s election manifestos have been centred on ensuring safety and securit, as well as combating gangsterism in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas.
The independent candidates represent a silent threat to the governing party, despite their lack of resources to campaign. They retain significant support in wards considered to be traditional ANC strongholds in the municipality.
Dozens of former ANC councillors and prominent members of regional structures have decided to stand without party political representation in the municipality – and across the country – after being sidelined during the ANC’s chaotic list selection process. This includes the Nelson Mandela Bay’s former mayor Zanuxolo Wayile, as well as veteran ANC ward councillor Mbongeni Bungane, who will be contesting for a council seat against their former comrades.
For Wayile, the financial backing of the United Front has been able to keep his campaign afloat. The Front is known to have access to resources from metalworkers union Numsa, which has an estimated net worth of around R6-billion.
Motherwell community leader Noxolo Mafumana is another candidate who is in desperate need of funding. She was promised the ward 41 councillor candidacy after coming in at 2nd place during the list process in the 2011 election, but this year she was relegated when a DA councillor crossing over and taking her place.
Now the popular leader is mobilising her support base in Motherwell’s NU10 – and is hopeful that a cash injection from McKenzie’s party will be enough to secure a winning number of votes.
“The cheapest price for an election poster is around R50 each and the cost of organising a rally is around R1000. I think I can win my ward because my community [support] is strong. I’m definitely not going back to ANC, I’ve made up my mind, ” Mafumana said while meeting with PA officials in PE last week.
But this is by no means a free lunch.
“We can help with those funds but in exchange for that, if you lose your ward but secure more than 2000 votes, we would like you to be the PA’s proportional representation candidate in council,” said Eastern Cape PA leader Marlon Daniels who insisted the offer had the blessing of the party’s founder and president.
The strategy potentially hands the PA a “foot in the door” in predominantly black areas in the municipality where the perception of the party still centres around coloured people and gangsterism.
The independents also pose a significant threat in other parts of the country. In Kwa-Zulu Natal, 10 ANC and alliance partner officials will also contest independently following the recall of premier Senzo Mchunu and a breakdown in the relationship between the governing party and the SACP.
In the Northern Cape, the National Union of Mineworkers health and safety chairperson Peter Bailey is reportedly registered as an independent candidate in the town of Cillie, following more protests over the alleged manipulation of the list. Asked this week to respond to his decision to stand in the polls, Bailey would not comment.
Back at Luthuli House, the ANC appears well-aware of the threat with its most senior leaders attempting to discredit its former officials who have decided to run alone.
“Don’t vote for them. They left the organisation thinking they are popular. Don’t be misled by people who are half ANC; people who leave the organisation because they can’t get positions,” said ANC president Jacob Zuma while campaigning in the north of Pretoria last week.
“If you love ANC, you will do ANC work. If you are registered as an independent, you would be working against ANC,” Gwede Mantashe, ANC secretary general, echoed at a community meeting in Colesburg in the Northern Cape this week.