/ 11 January 2019

ANC is playing it safe in the Western Cape

Face of the party: ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa visited Hanover Park in Cape Town last year. The party is not putting up a premier candidate to campaign in the Western Cape.
Face of the party: ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa visited Hanover Park in Cape Town last year. The party is not putting up a premier candidate to campaign in the Western Cape. (David Harrison/M&G)

The ANC in the Western Cape will choose President Cyril Ramaphosa to be the face of its campaign to wrest control from the Democratic Alliance in this year’s provincial elections.

The party in the province has been without a permanent provincial chairperson for two years now and has been mired in chaos since the suspension of former ANC chairperson Marius Fransman on sexual misconduct charges.

The party has also had to redo its provincial list after some names were left off the final list sent by the province to the list conference this weekend. The error was only discovered after the delegates had already left the conference venue.

Provincial delegates initially convened in early December, but they were summoned back to Wellington to redo the list on December 27.

Speaking before the ANC’s national election manifesto launch in eThekwini, Western Cape ANC secretary Faiez Jacobs said the party would not put up a premier candidate to campaign in the only province it doesn’t govern.

“There will be only one face of this campaign, and that will be the president’s face. So we made it very clear the premier candidate is not a priority for us.”

He said Ramaphosa had broad public appeal and was seen as a unifier and peacemaker.

The DA has announced current community safety MEC Alan Winde as its premier candidate and he has already begun to campaign to take over from Helen Zille, who has served two terms.

Zille is the province’s longest-serving premier. Before her, not one premier had managed to complete a full five-year term in office.

Former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has also indicated she’s ready to lead her Good movement to victory and to take over as premier.

Jacobs said the Western Cape ANC was wary of linking the provincial campaign to one individual and that the party was not looking for a messiah to gain control of the province.

But he believed that Ramaphosa’s “Thuma Mina” campaign has captured the imagination of all racial and demographic groups in South Africa.

“His face appeals to new constituencies of ours. He appeals to whites, Africans, coloureds, professionals; even farmers are reaching out to him. So we are going to facilitate him to be that face in the Western Cape.”

The ANC’s Western Cape list has not yet been made public, but it is understood that veteran provincial legislator and former education MEC Cameron Dugmore tops the list, which makes it likely that he will be nominated for premier if the party wins at the polls.

Dugmore is also the only ANC figure who indicated his willingness to become provincial chairperson — a bold move for a white male in a majority coloured province.

When he announced his intentions last year, Dugmore said in an interview that his race should not be an issue if the ANC branches believed he was the right person for the job.

“We should have confidence in our branches in making the right decision. And, to be honest, I don’t know if I feel white if one has to look at that. I have been in the ANC for a long time; I have always felt at home. And I just think it’s a question of feeling that one has a contribution to make.”

Race has historically played a big role in ANC politics in the Western Cape. The party was once said to be divided between coloured and Africanist cliques.

But despite a bullish ANC with Ramaphosa as its trump card, it still faces an uphill battle to unseat the DA. In the 2016 elections, the incumbent party won a two-thirds majority in the Cape Town city council. It also boasts a record of clean governance and often uses clean audits from the auditor general’s office to prove its point.

But, with recent setbacks such as the handling of the De Lille debacle and the Cape Town water crisis, the ANC says it believes it has a chance of at least bringing the DA below 50% and forming a coalition provincial government.

“Our goal is to ensure the DA gets less than 50%. And we’re obviously working towards a win and we know it’s going to be a tall order. There’s a big gatvol factor, with many people being undecided, but they don’t want to vote for the DA again.”