On Wednesday his daughter turned seven, and Mandla Faltein would have showered her with presents. But the United Democratic Movement (UDM) candidate for the Nelson Mandela Bay metro received the biggest gift when he snatched a precious ward from an ANC already in trouble in the city. The UDM took ward 30, placing it in charge of the upper middle class areas of KwaMagxaki and Veeplaas, northwest of Port Elizabeth, both former ANC strongholds. His win reduced the ANC’s slim majority in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipal council to just two seats, leaving it on shaky ground and threatening its prospects of holding on to the key metro next year. Faltein, a single father to daughter Lumko, said the strategy was simple: win the trust of the people on the ground. “Trust is very important. What better way to gain that trust than going to people and finding out what their needs are.” The win was clearly a protest vote against the ANC. And Faltein will have his work cut out retaining the ward in next year’s local government elections. The 38-year-old used to support the ANC when he was growing up. His family were United Democratic Front activists in the 1980s, and he joined the ANC in 1993. The next year, however, he gave up active politics. He said he was disillusioned because the people who had taken over the party’s structures were interested only in enriching themselves. After 10 years spent doing other things, Faltein joined the UDM in 2003, becoming the party’s regional administrator. He held this position until he was elected ward councillor this week. In the composition of council, the ANC’s majority has now been reduced to 62 councillors, with the DA maintaining 47. Cope has six councillors, the UDM now has two, the African Christian Democratic Party has a single councillor and there is one independent. There is also a single vacancy for a seat that used to belong to the Pan Africanist Congress. A by-election will be held to decide that seat soon. Losing the ward meant the ANC dropped support by 23% while the UDM grew from 1% to a staggering 49%. The ANC parachuted Danny Jordaan to the city as mayor to regain lost ground, but the latest result indicates he might not be having an impact at grass roots level. Faltein said the UDM beat the ANC simply by being more in touch with the communities the ruling party had lost contact with. “We beat the ANC at their own game. They no longer conduct door-to-doors which is what made a difference for us in this election. “All they do is motorcades, driving around in fancy cars in front of poor people, speaking on loudhailers and chanting slogans, hoping people will come and vote. But little did they know that time is gone. People want substance and tangible objectives,” said Faltein. His main focus would be to voice the concerns of the people who voted for him and give them regular feedback. The challenges faced by the people of ward 30, he said, like unemployment, poverty, poor sanitation and housing backlogs, would be his first priority as he joined other councillors at City Hall. Faltein said he expected the UDM to take over the metro next year, as it was working in every corner of the city. He also did not rule out possible coalitions with other opposition parties as the battle to wrest power from the ANC intensified. “You cannot be detached from the people who voted for you just because you are now a councillor – an important person. As a ward councillor, you are the chain that links the community and the municipality. “In 2016, the UDM will surprise many people when it takes over this metro. And if we don’t, the party’s top leadership will decide if we get to coalitions or not,” added Faltein.