Tight race in Northern Cape

2014-05-04 15:00

Koos Njumba (34) says he has gone without food for five days.

He is the slight leader of the Khwe tribe, who coexist with fellow San community the !Xun in Platfontein, a small, traditional village about 15km outside Kimberley in Northern Cape.

Unemployment sits at more than 80% and most people in this settlement rely on grants, the wildlife and the nearby rubbish dump (“die tiep”) for food.

Many worked as trackers for the apartheid-era SA Defence Force during the South African Border War.

“If I want to apply for a job at the municipality now, they say I am a murderer. The Tswanas say we are with the white people,” he says in Afrikaans.

Njumba, the DA’s community coordinator, says the party is strong there because the ANC’s promises of jobs and better homes have amounted to nothing.

“Ons trek swaar. Ons wil ons ou lewe terug hê[We are suffering. We want our old life back].”

Northern Cape is the country’s largest province in terms of area but is home to just 2% of its people. It relies largely on agriculture and mining for jobs.

Parties are loathe to commit to election predictions there. An Ipsos poll in November had the DA at 45.9% and the ANC at 42.7%, but pollsters have since conceded that the province, with its 600?000 registered voters, cannot be polled accurately.

Still, DA pamphlets advertise these figures as proof that the party can rule. About 2?000 supporters attended the party’s Workers’ Day rally in Kimberley’s Galeshewe township, some bused in from Upington.

The province’s most densely populated area, Galeshewe, decides the elections, according to campaigners.

“We couldn’t even campaign here previously,” a DA councillor said.

The DA received just 12.5% of the votes in 2009, but has since joined forces with the Independent Democrats, which received 5%. The DA is also hoping to get some of the 16.7% of votes the Congress of the People (Cope) received in 2009.

Cope is in decline after most of its MPs and MPLs left, but has fielded a premier candidate, Pakes Dikgetsi, and is well represented on posters.

De Lille, who has urged supporters to accept government food parcels but not to vote for the ANC, says corruption has stifled the province.

Provincial ANC leader and finance MEC John Block is in court with two others on corruption charges, and has been fingered in at least two more cases.

But the ANC is bullish.

“We can be certain eight out of 10 votes will go to the ANC,” the party’s provincial secretary, Zamani Saul, said. But Block on Friday put ANC support at 70%, contrasting with the party’s internal poll of 50%. In 2009, the ANC won 60% of the votes.

Saul claims the large turnout at ANC events – the party’s manifesto launch at Galeshewe Stadium attracted more than 20?000 people – is a sign of voter support. “The ANC support base is now energised. Maybe it is because of the campaign we managed to pull off,” he said.

But for now, poor communities like Platfontein are banking on an election outcome that will improve their lives.

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