Coffee in the garden with Jessie Duarte

2014-05-04 15:00

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With elections just two days away, the ANC’s deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte is flu-riddled, but remarkably calm as she meets Ferial Haffajee.

Her house is being painted, so we sit in the garden drinking coffee. Duarte is at the end of a gruelling 14-month campaign?–?the calm before the calm.

While the national chatter suggests a race, the ANC knows it is going to win. “I don’t know where the two-thirds rumours come from. [The final election tally] will be over 60%.”

Most polls concur, as does DA leader Helen Zille.

The ANC mobilises hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the country to take its campaign street by street, house by house. Duarte has been on more house visits than she can count.

“Nkandla comes up maybe one in 1?000 times,” she says. I ask how she knows. The volunteers each fill in “street sheets” for every house with the lists of issues they encounter. Immediate needs trump grand corruption. In strongholds like Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West, water is the main electoral issue.

“[The popularity of the call for] access to free education surprised us,” says Duarte. She adds that it was the fourth most common issue on the campaign trail.

ANC victory is certain in six of the nine provinces. In three, the race is tighter.

In Gauteng?–?where support dipped below 50% in early internal polls?–?the party has focused on Ekurhuleni, where support in the sprawling Katlehong, Tembisa and Daveyton areas, as well as Soweto, has the party believing it will retain the economic heartland.

And, while the Northern Cape looks marginal, Duarte says it is not. The Square Kilometre Array telescope near Carnarvon and a provincial university in Kimberley have boosted confidence.

“We have lifted the province from its marginal status,” says Duarte.

It is unlikely to win the DA-run Western Cape despite the deployment of 1?200 clothing workers and the Cape minstrels as ANC campaigners.

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