ANC’s no longer just listening, it’s doing ― Mchunu
Less talk and more action — that is the strategy the ANC will adopt in the run-up to the 2019 elections.
The party’s hands-on approach under President Cyril Ramaphosa will resonate with voters when it begins campaigning, according to the ANC chairperson of organising and campaigning, Senzo Mchunu.
He told the Mail & Guardian that the party’s strategy would be to ensure that leaders no longer just listened to peoples’ grievances but leave them with concrete solutions to their problems.
On Monday, the party held an elections manifesto workshop in Pretoria, where it invited the public to help to craft its strategy. It is the first of a series of public engagements the party will hold around the country before launching its manifesto in January.
Mchunu said it was time for the ANC to face its delivery shortcomings head on and to begin to implement the tangible solutions people wanted.
“This is the message and the actual rationale behind [the] Thuma Mina [campaign], to say to all public representatives, from national up to local level, for the first three days of each month they must go to that community. When you go there and people talk about electricity, you must already have in hand a plan.
“If you don’t have a plan, you need to talk to Eskom and relevant ministries and hear what plan is there for that area to be electrified. You don’t go there to say we are here to listen and say we understand. You must come with something concrete. We are no longer listening, we are doing — we are delivering.”
The party will also showcase the progress it has made in various parts of the country. Mchunu admitted that so far it was not enough but he believed it would go a long way towards voters the ANC was committed to renewal and delivery.
“Visible things have happened in rural areas; there are bridges and so on. On schools, there is a lot that has happened. Connections — there are various part of the country where you could not operate a TV or a cellphone before.
“I can count and count. It is obviously not enough, but we are brave enough to admit that as the ANC,” he added.
But the party will have to reverse the losses it has suffered because of financial mismanagement and corruption, which will be one of the key focuses of its manifesto, along with job creation and the land issue.
Mchunu said the ANC, since the election of new leaders in December, had shown itself committed to fighting corruption with the establishment of the South African Revenue Service (Sars) inquiry and its attempts to clean up state-owned enterprises. But there was concern that the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture had still not started.
“[Deputy Chief Justice Raymond] Zondo still has to deliver similarly on state capture. Some of us are really not happy that that thing has not started. We are just shown pictures but not actual work. But it is there in terms of announcement. It’s no longer an intention, it is there.”
In the 2016 municipal elections, the ANC lost 8.04% of its support nationally, dropping from 61.95% in 2011 to 53.91%. After the elections, its internal report showed voters had punished the party for its perceived arrogance and reluctance to deal with corruption within its ranks.
Mchunu said reconnecting with voters would require honest answers about the ANC’s shortcomings because “people were prepared to accept an honest explanation”.
But decreasing trust among its once-loyal voters is not the only problem the ANC will have to tackle. It will also have to endear itself to a large group of young voters who are unlikely to view its liberation credentials as enough reason to support it.
According to Independent Electoral Commission registration figures, there are more than six million voters between the ages of 18 and 29, and more than 200 000 of them are registered as first-time voters.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is targeting this group as part of its 2019 election strategy.
This large bloc is part of the reason Ramaphosa has instructed the ANC to abandon the use of the liberation ticket to secure votes and to start asking people to vote based on what the party has done.
A senior ANC member said the party was concerned about its ability to capture the youth vote, particularly because the ANC Youth League was not up to the standard the party required.
“It does present a serious challenge in terms of young people finding the kind of identity within the ANC. Over and above whether our manifesto speaks to their issues, our challenge will also be, as we campaign, are they seeing people they can identify with?” said an ANC national executive committee member, who asked to remain anonymous.
“And with the leadership of EFF coming from a generation of the youth league, they know very well the gaps [in the ANC’s youth appeal].” — Additional reporting by Matuma Letsoalo