Unlocking the middle class? The ANC's suburban access conundrum

2019-03-25 10:41
ANC flag (Thapelo Maphakela, Gallo Images)

ANC flag (Thapelo Maphakela, Gallo Images)

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The ANC’s popular door-to-door method of campaigning might work in townships, informal settlements and in rural areas but Gauteng's high walls and gated communities make it nearly impossible for the governing party to spread its #GrowSouthAfrica message ahead of the polls in two months' time.

ANC Youth League secretary Njabulo Nzuza says going from house to house is just not the right strategy for some areas.

"Door-to-door is not effective in the gated communities, those are people who rely on knowing about the country through news and media platforms to figure out who's good or bad in society," he said.

Nzuza, who has been quietly running a youth league elections campaign in some of the country's provinces, says they would normally mitigate the lack of access to middle class areas through blitz campaigns at shopping malls or asking their party members who live in gated communities to spread the word and rally people behind their green, black and gold message.

"It's not just us, if you look at the EFF, it's resorted to handing out pamphlets at the traffic lights in Midrand," says Nzuza.

The league's secretary general says only the DA seemed to have an edge and access to the highly protected neighbourhoods.

'Clever blacks'

"In gated communities there is an unfair relationship between homeowners' associations and the DA, as most favour the DA, so you find they allow for SMSes and messages promoting the DA to reach people," observed Nzuza.

Some in the party have shared his sentiments, with one leader, who asked to remain anonymous, expressing concern over the potential impact this could have on the ANC.

The ANC has the arduous task of wooing the black middle class – particularly in a province like Gauteng, where support dropped during the 2016 municipal elections. Under Jacob Zuma's presidency many people in the province voiced their growing alienation from the party, especially after Zuma's characterisation of those in this class who attacked him and the ANC as "clever blacks".

READ: Black people will vote for the ANC while white people vote for Ramaphosa

In 2016, the ANC suffered a major loss as many working and middle-class black people opted to stay away from the polls and not participate in the local government elections, costing the party outright control of the three big metros in the province. The ANC only managed to clinch control of Ekurhuleni through a coalition with smaller political parties.

The leader who spoke to News24 says there are fears that residents in many of the communities the ANC can’t easily reach are gripped by issues such as state capture, load shedding, increasing fuel and food prices and claims of corrupt leaders continuing to enjoy support from within the party.

"Those are the only things being said about us in the media. It is just negative, so how do you think those people feel about us? And because we can't knock on their doors and speak to them, they won't know of our renewal project," said the party insider.

Middle-class 'warming up' to ANC

The party, which is yet to kick its election machinery into high gear, has had its top six leaders visiting various parts of the country, with a special focus on regions across Gauteng. Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa was stuck on a train outside Pretoria for three hours as the party continued its blitz. The ANC's leaders carried out a similar drive in Soweto earlier this month.

The ANC's head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, acknowledged that access to gated communities was a challenge but said the party had ways to navigate this challenge and make sure it spread its message to residents in these communities.

He told News24 he did not believe this challenge would cost the ANC votes, claiming that research was showing that the middle strata had warmed up to the 107-year-old liberation movement.

"The middle strata has been reacting quite positively to our campaign and recognise there is change in the nation in regard to how things were done, and that we recognise that we've got to deal with things differently," said Mbalula.

He said the ANC was also aware that the middle class, and professionals in particular, wanted to see how the governing party was approaching the issue of transformation.

Read more on:    anc  |  politics  |  elections 2019
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