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ATM uses communities, traditional leaders to pick council candidates

The African Transformation Movement (ATM) used communities and traditional leaders to select its council candidates for this year’s local government elections

Much like the ANC, the party wanted the input of the community in selecting candidates,  ATM leader Vuyo Zungula said in an interview with the Mail & Guardian. The fairly new party gained some attention shortly before general elections in 2019, where it gained two  seats in parliament. 

ATM recently launched its manifesto in the small Eastern Cape town of Mthatha, pledging to put people first, and is confident of gaining wards in that province as well as KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. This assessment, it says, is based on the 2019 general elections result as well as its growing popularity in the three provinces. 

With 5 455 candidates, including 2 355 ward councillors, registered to contest this year’s elections, Zungula said it was important for the community to hand-pick representatives in municipal councils and that the input of traditional leaders in those communities was equally crucial.

“It was all about the people. Internally the party sat and chose three names and of those names the community had to decide who would be the candidate. I’ve been campaigning directly with our council candidates and when I do door-to-door campaigns in these communities, most people know the person we have chosen. We knew that if we consult traditional leaders and the community, we would have people who are already invested in the community. This was very important to us,” he said. 

The party president said that while some of the council candidates may not have experience at local government level, the party had committed to upskilling all its councillors shortly after the elections. 

Zungula also promised a sharp focus on developing the rural economy. 

“We recognise that when rural development is done right, it decreases the number of people who migrate to cities. The township economy is also a priority to us. There are immediate benefits to the informal economy. We need to redirect our focus to programmes that can boost our economy and get people working,” he said.

“Our priority is to get municipalities to work and the best way to do that for politicians is not to be in the pockets of businesses. That is where the problem starts. When I visited Buffalo City, Amathole and Mthatha (I found) there are always people even outside of politics who control the municipality and that needs to be stopped.”

While ATM is a faith-based organisation founded by religious leaders of the Christian faith, Zungula said the party welcomed supporters, including non-believers. 

“We represent people based on their needs, not based on their religion. If a particular religion agrees with us on a particular issue that is by coincidence but ours is to serve people and we don’t want to impose our religious beliefs. We are a party that responds to the needs of the people,” he said. 

In 2019, the party was rocked by scandal when allegations emerged from one of its disgruntled leaders that it had been formed by ANC leaders including former president Jacob Zuma and suspended secretary general Ace Magashule to undermine President Cyril Ramaphosa

The rumours were partly fuelled by controversial staunch Zuma ally Mzwanele Manyi’s decision to leave the ANC and join the ATM. Manyi was appointed as Zuma’s spokesperson in June. 

In a recent media briefing Manyi — one of ATM’s most popular officials — spoke on behalf of Zuma, who encouraged South Africans to vote for the ANC. 

When asked if Manyi was harming the ATM, Zungula said he was not a leader of the party and had a right to employment. 

“Because the ATM is new, we have people who are working privately in the leadership. 

People who speak on behalf of the party are the president, chairperson and spokesperson. [Manyi] does not speak for the party. We need to move away from personalities in politics. Because he is known people mistake him as the leader of the party. There is no confusion from our side,” Zungula said.

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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