Kaapse Klopse key to the ANC’s 2014 election hopes

2013-12-29 10:00

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When some of Cape Town’s famous minstrel troupes hit the city centre on January 4, they’ll be wearing ANC colours – and it’s rumoured that some may even don “Vote ANC” armbands.

The party is desperately trying to claw back votes in the large but fickle Cape coloured community after a humiliating defeat by the DA in 2009.

Cape Town is the only metro and the Western Cape the only province in which the ANC fills the opposition benches.

The ANC has its sights set on victory at the polls – and the minstrels, or Kaapse Klopse as they’re popularly known, are key to its plan.

“We are disappointed in the DA, [which has been governing the City of Cape Town since 2006],” said Shafiek Soeker, captain of the Saltravanians Klopse troupe.

“On the one hand, they want to portray that they’re in favour of our people, but if you come into the Cape, you need permits to march. I grew up in the Bo-Kaap on those streets where we march. Why give your voice to people if they don’t take you seriously?”

Although the costumes are kept secret until New Year’s Day, organisers have confirmed that some troupes will wear ANC colours, while it’s also been rumoured that many will be wearing “Vote ANC” armbands.

And during the Tweede Nuwejaar (Second New Year) celebrations, which will take place on January 4, the two biggest klopse associations – the Cape Town Minstrels Carnival Association and the breakaway Kaapse Klopse Karnival Association – will announce ANC Western Cape chairman Marius Fransman as their new patron.

The former patron was Nelson Mandela, who dressed up in a coon uniform – locals still call this annual celebration the Coon Carnival, despite the word’s racial overtones – and took part in the celebrations in the former Green Point Stadium in 1996.

Soeker said this was as significant to the coloured community as Madiba wearing a Springbok jersey was to white people.

Fransman’s new role follows his mediation last week between the minstrel groups and Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, who appointed an external service provider contrary to previous agreements with the minstrels.

The associations then threatened to take the city to court and to withdraw from next week’s festival.

“After the intervention of Marius, we are back on track and ownership has been returned. Dit is weer ons s’n [It’s ours again],” Ghalieb Essop from the Kaapse Klopse Karnival Association said.

“Fransman said even though we have our differences, we have the same gripes.”

Last week’s agreement also marked the end to an almost decade-long rivalry between the two minstrel associations.

Fransman will be lobbying to declare the march route – which has long been a bone of contention between minstrels and authorities because City Bowl residents complain about massive traffic disruptions – a heritage route.

Essop said the Klopse were very influential in coloured Cape Flats communities.

The two associations claim a joint membership of 60?000, with 300 000 local supporters.

“It is a big majority that we are dealing with, almost the entire metro,” Essop said.

Although the January carnival is the associations’ biggest event, communities practise throughout the year and hold various events and competitions.

Essop admitted, however, that although Klopse leaders were staunchly behind the ANC, not all members would vote for the party.

ANC strategists told City Press the Klopse alone would not win the Western Cape.

Cape Town has about 1.5?million coloured residents out of a population of 3.74 million, according to Census 2011.

There are 2.8 million coloured people in the Western Cape, a province with a total population of 5.8 million.

The party would need about 800 000 votes in coloured areas – up from the 650 000 it got in 2009 – if it wanted to just get to 40% in the Western Cape, a strategist said.

“It will be almost impossible. You also have the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters], which is expected to take about 7% to 10% of the ANC’s vote,” he said.

Another strategist said that apart from the minstrels, the ANC would also target coloured farm workers, many of whom have traditionally been slow to come to the polls.

Culture MEC and Western Cape DA leader Ivan Meyer said the ANC’s “hijacking” of a cultural event was “a pity”, adding that traditional Afrikaner dances, called volkspele, have become unpopular because the tradition was used for political gain.

He also accused the ANC of using the Klopse as part of its “ungovernability” campaign to make the DA look bad.

“Every year there is tension between the authorities and the cultural organisations. It is politically driven. I’ve seen the ANC’s document in which they said they want to make the Cape ungovernable. They identified the Kaapse Klopse as an instrument to destabilise the Cape,” he said.

He said the DA might hire the services of a troupe for entertainment at some of its bigger meetings, but would never expect the performers to wear the DA logo.

Fransman, however, rubbished claims about the ANC’s ungovernability campaign.

“Every time the DA messes up, they have a wonderful bogeyman called ungovernability by the ANC,” he said.

He called Meyer a “bergbobbejaan” (mountain baboon), and dared him and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille to debate the cultural issue in front of the minstrels on January 4.

“Zille must come, in particular, and bring this individual who dances like a bergbobbejaan like the white master tells him to dance,” he said.

“The minstrels is not just another event; it is a cultural and heritage issue for the people of Cape Town. You won’t find it anywhere in the world. It was born out of the struggle of our people and it has to do with the preservation of a legacy of a people,” he said.

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