How the ANC won the elections

2014-05-04 15:00

Towards the end of last year, it looked like the ANC had its back against the wall as speculation mounted its support would dip below 60% in these elections. But as with previous campaigns, once its election machine was up and running, the picture looked different and a confident party emerged. Sabelo Ndlangisa looks at how the party transformed its prospects.

Incumbency

The ANC’s election campaign coincided with 20 years of democracy, which sometimes led to a blurring of the line between party and state events.

Infrastructure delivery featured prominently in the party’s campaign – to showcase government’s service-delivery and job-creation initiatives.

In places like Gauteng, freeway billboards advertising government’s achievements were branded in ANC colours, prompting an outcry from opposition parties. Despite this, the billboards were never removed.

The use of the benefits of incumbency also worked in the ANC’s favour.

City Press reported how the government budget for “food relief” had grown by an extra R200?million in this financial year, bringing it to R419?million.

The DA’s attempt to interdict government from distributing food parcels failed on Friday.

Spectacle

The ANC’s election spectacle closes with a show of force in the form of what has become its traditional Siyanqoba (We are victorious) rally. The main event at Joburg’s FNB Stadium today is expected to attract more than 150?000 people.

The party’s leader, President Jacob Zuma, will deliver his “victory” speech.

More than 2?000 buses and 28 trains will be used to ferry supporters to the main event. ANC campaigns head Nomvula Mokonyane, who is Gauteng’s premier, described the event as a “show of strength”.

It is expected that about 300?000 people will attend Siyanqoba rallies across the country next week. Similarly, the manifesto launch rally in January was a big spectacle.

'Cool' factor

The new innovation the party added to its campaign this time around, apart from increasing the size of its election machinery, was the use of a dedicated social network team that went on the election trail with party officials.

This boosted the party’s visibility on public platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

The ANC also entered into a deal with Mxit and used the platform to reach out to first-time voters aged 18 and 19.

Even though social media has been important for the party’s public visibility, traditional election paraphernalia like posters and T-shirts remained a key source of party branding.

ANCelections head Malusi Gigaba said they had procured more than 3?million party T-shirts.

Personal contact

The party’s campaign has been strong on the ground. Its thousands of volunteers visited potential voters at their homes at least three times before this week’s polls. The last visits are set for Wednesday, when transport will be organised for voters.

Gauteng provincial secretary David Makhura told City Press the focus in the province has been in townships around the three metros, where more than 90% of Gauteng’s population lives.

“The battle is for the maximum vote the ANC is able to get. We are no longer worried about the 60% so-called psychological barrier,” he said.

Cosatu/ANCYL

Despite the leadership crises hobbling the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and Cosatu, the ANC has managed to pull off a successful campaign.

Gigaba said this was because individual young people and workers supported ANC campaigns as volunteers on their own.

The involvement of the youth included events like car wash blitzes and door-to-door campaigns.

The party also roped in famous personalities – such as soapie stars and musicians – to attract the youth to its events.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the absence of organised labour support was likely to hurt the ANC in areas like Rustenburg and would most likely benefit small parties.

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