Battle for the Cape

2013-11-03 14:00

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This week’s violent protests in Cape Town’s city centre and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s walkout from a state function on Thursday mark a campaign for the Mother City and its home province that could turn increasingly violent.

The governing DA believes it faces a shadowy campaign of ungovernability by a coalition of ANC Youth League and Economic Freedom Fighters cadres.

For the ANC, the battle is against the two Capes?–?one that is fabulously rich and bling; the other that is poor and desperate. It says the DA favours one Cape Town and ignores the other.

Carien du Plessis reports from the Cape of Storms.

Traders in the heart of Cape Town took no chances when they heard rumours of another violent protest march on Friday. By noon, the stalls in St George’s Mall were packed up for the day.

It was a false alarm, but this won’t be the last time traders in the CBD will have reason to panic. Leaders of the group of a few thousand that marched to the Western Cape legislature say they’ll be back?–?in far bigger numbers?–?in a month’s time.

One of the group’s leaders, expelled ANC councillor Andile Lili, who also led the recent “poo protests” in the city, said: “The next march will be on the Grand Parade. We will sit there and ask for land. We don’t want people to be in the CBD and lose focus.

“They must be prepared not to eat or drink for three days because we are fighting for a good reason.”

The rhetoric sounds like that of Economic FreedomFighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, but Lili says he is loyal to the ANC despite being left off its elections lists because of an ongoing. internal disciplinary hearing.

On Friday, Lili consulted lawyers about possibly suing Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, who labelled him an EFF member in the National Assembly this week.

The ANC has blamed Malema’s party for the looting that marked Wednesday’s march.

ANC provincial chairperson Marius Fransman said Lili’s protests were not part of the ANC’s 2014 elections strategy to win back the Western Cape.

He also denied that the party is running an “ungovernability” campaign, as the DA claims.

The party has documented a series of actions it says are designed to mimic the ANC’s successful ungovernability campaign of the 1980s.

But Fransman says the protests reveal a justifiable frustration. He says that under the DA’s rule, there are two Western Capes.

“If you talk nationally about an underdeveloped and a developed country, the Western Cape under the DA has possibly shown the starkest example of that. They didn’t embrace the underdeveloped community; they pushed them away,” he said.

Even though the march wasn’t sanctioned by the party, the divisions in the ANC in the province meant that some of its leaders capitalised on it.

ANC provincial member of the legislature Mcebisi Skwatsha made a surprise appearance when he emerged from the legislature to address the crowd.

Skwatsha told the crowds over a loud-hailer: “I went inside the building and asked for Zille, but could not find her.”

Many afterwards said they understood Zille’s refusal to come out as a cue to start the looting.

Skwatsha, also a member of the ANC’s national executive committee, was moved to the bottom of the ANC’s provisional provincial and national elections lists. This means he and his ANC allies could soon be out of jobs.

This has brought old divisions to the fore.

Previously aligned to two different factions in the province (one emphasising the need for wooing the black vote, the other concentrating on the coloured constituency), Skwatsha and Fransman briefly reconciled before Mangaung to back President Jacob Zuma.

Skwatsha’s phone was off yesterday and he did not respond to an SMS.

It is difficult to unravel the politics of the Western Cape, but in Barcelona, an informal settlement that is older than South Africa’s democracy, the issues are simple.

When City Press visited on Friday, the talk was about the human need for proper homes and toilets.

Barcelona residents were among those who took trains and taxis into the city on Wednesday to complain about their lives which are so far removed from magazine-pretty Cape Town.

Close to the airport turn-off on the N2 and about 15km from the Cape Town CBD, people in Barcelona (named after the host city of the 1992 Olympics) live in small wooden and corrugated iron structures that often flood in winter and face the threat of fires in summer.

Trains have made it easy to travel there, but the commute into work remains expensive for those with little or nothing.

Community leader and ANC member Mongami Mbili said he did not believe the authorities when they said the water level there didn’t allow for proper underground sewerage systems and homes.

Mbili said they marched to demand a more dignified life.

“Protesting inside the community wouldn’t work because Zille doesn’t care. That is why we went to the legislature (travelling for free on Metrorail trains), to show our feelings. We tried to toyi-toyi inside the area but nothing came of it.”

Zille said she had previously asked community leaders to give specifics of their complaints to housing MEC Madikizela, but this never happened.

“I need specifics. I contacted them and made sure they received our reply. They only had generalisations,” she said yesterday.

Zille said the fact that protesters were already planning another march without attempting to give details of their complaints meant the protests were “purely an excuse to cause mayhem”.

She admitted that the ANC did not have an orchestrated “ungovernability” campaign, but that “these kind of protests suit them”, referring to the ANC’s efforts to discredit the DA-led government.

She said Cape Town’s population had grown by 30% over the past decade and “we are doing as much as we can” to accommodate everyone.

Speaking to City Press from her car by phone, she said: “Even today (Saturday) I’m working, I’m off to visit three communities.”

Ungovernability – or pure frustration?

The cast of characters

The boss: Premier Helen Zille

Helen Zille has had a tough week.

On Thursday, she walked out of a government event in Saldanha on the West Coast after slamming the ANC for turning it into a rally.

The day before, her office in the provincial legislature was surrounded by looting protesters.

Zille became Cape Town mayor in 2006 and Western Cape premier in 2009.

She’s known for being hands-on, but a few of her colleagues say she can be overbearing and stubborn while detractors in the ANC say she’s out of touch with the poor.

As the face of the DA, she has to fight an election battle countrywide and steer a transformation process in her party while not neglecting her own province with its fickle voters.

Waiting in the wings: ANC Provincial Chairperson Marius Fransman

When he is not overseas on a diplomatic mission as deputy international affairs minister, Marius Fransman has to manage an uneasy unity in his party in the Western Cape.

After serving as an MEC, he was elected ANC chairperson in 2011. He found himself at odds with fellow provincial ANC leaders when he backed President Jacob Zuma’s re-election in Mangaung last year, but says he and fellow leaders are managing their differences.

His task is to help win back the Western Cape for the ANC after it lost the province in 2009.

A majority of more than 50% could be a big ask?– the ANC got 31.5% in 2009, so he has his work cut out for him.

The renegades: Former ANC Councillor Andile Lili and ANC Councillor Loyiso Nkohla

Community leaders Andile Lili and Loyiso Nkohla have earned themselves the reputation of poo protesters in the past three years.

In 2010, as ANC Youth League members, they brought the issue of unenclosed toilets into the national eye through violent protests.

They were also the face of the recent protests that involved flinging faeces on the N2 highway, at the legislature entrance and at Cape Town International Airport.

They were also in charge of mobilising Wednesday’s protest outside the provincial legislature which turned sour after a mob started looting.

Lili was booted out from the council earlier this year and both men are facing an ANC disciplinary procedure.

They also face criminal charges connected to various incidents.

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