ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe has taken the road less travelled by being unapologetic to people during a door-to-door campaign in Ekurhuleni on Thursday ahead of 1 November local government elections.
Mantashe, who has missed a portion of the ANC’s electioneering because of family obligations, kicked off the second leg of his campaign in Daveyton, telling residents that they should appreciate the gains made by the ANC government since the advent of democratic rule.
“All of you, every month the ANC pays you. It pays you for being elderly. During apartheid, black people were only paid a grant once a quarter. The ANC changed this and paid a grant for the elderly every month. That is what you have to accept. The ANC cares for you. Yes, there may be challenges but the ANC cares for you,” he told a group of older women, adding that the ruling party also believed every child should be able to afford an education.
Mantashe made no promises to residents who complained that there were no jobs, telling them that “the ANC will not give you jobs”. He said some South Africans were unwilling to wake up early to queue for jobs, as had been the norm in his day.
The blunt Mantashe said: “Our kids want the ANC to find jobs for them. There is something not right with that and needs to be fixed. The ANC takes you to school, it pays for you and gives you a degree then after the ANC should find you a job.”
“Not everyone will get a job at the municipality. There are industrial firms in Ekurhuleni but I’ve never seen people queueing there for jobs. White people employ foreigners and we get angry but it’s because they wait in line looking for jobs. I’m not saying the government has no responsibility but the pressure must come from you.”
Mantashe was confronted by a man who said the government’s Covid-19 R350 relief grant was not enough to feed his child. To that, the ANC chairperson said the government should not give handouts to people who were undeserving.
“Giving R350 to people who have done nothing to deserve it, you end up asking these questions … What do you want us to do with this R350 when you have done nothing to earn it?” he asked the man, who claimed to be a retired military veteran.
Mantashe said the state had invested in its people to ensure that every child received an education. He told the military veteran claimant that the government was giving people opportunities, but some South Africans wanted handouts, adding: “We give you a fishing rod and skills to fish and you still want us to give you the fish?”
When one young man told Mantashe that the ANC was only seen during campaign season, Mantashe would not apologise for showing up once in five years.
“I don’t live here, why should I come back. I have left you with a councillor, he is the one responsible for this community, not me,” he said.
The residents also complained that drugs were destroying the neighbourhood, to which Mantashe said people needed to take responsibility and Daveyton residents should work with the police to confront the drug problem.
“Your first assumption is that we are failing you, if you are in national leadership should you have to take responsibility for things that happen in every locality? When we were growing up, every street had a street committee, that no longer exists, who has let you down? The street committees would agree to fight criminal elements in the community, but that stopped. Yet you say you have been let down by somebody, somewhere,” he said.
Mantashe, who is also South Africa’s minister of minerals and resources, also heard how residents in Daveyton’s ward 70 were affected by state power utility Eskom’s regular “load reduction” blackouts. Assuring people he would speak to Eskom executives on the matter, Mantashe also said residents should not blame the ANC for service delivery problems in the Ekurhuleni municipality because they had not given the ruling party an outright majority during 2016 elections.
“What we are asking is that on 1 November, let’s go out in our numbers and vote for the ANC and vote for the ANC candidate,” he urged.
“When white people go out to vote, they even take their children to vote but we think even if we don’t turn out the ANC will automatically win, but we should not do that. The ANC can only win elections if people go out in their numbers to vote.”
Mantashe’s unique campaign strategy contrasts that of President Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza. Both have been begging people to give the party another chance while making promises to redress past failures.
In Tshwane on Monday, Mabuza handed out T-shirts and headwraps to residents, pleading with them to vote for the ANC. On the same day, Ramaphosa was in Manguang in the Free State, promising that the ANC would do better once elected.
Statistics South Africa’s latest quarterly labour survey found that more than four in every 10 young people aged 15 to 34 were not in employment, education or training.
A Statistics South Africa report in August said that the country added more than half a million workers to its unemployed labour force, which now consists of 7.8-million people.
The 34.4% unemployment rate, up from 32.6% in the first quarter, is the highest since the start of the survey in 2008.
The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition — which counts economically inactive people still looking for work as well as discouraged work seekers — increased by 1.2 percentage points to 44.4% in the second quarter of 2021 compared with the previous three months. The number of discouraged work seekers increased by 186 000.