Why the ANC miserably lost Nquthu

2017-05-28 06:05
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to visit Lesotho as SADC Facilitator, Thursday 18 September 2014 Departing from OR Tambo Airport. Interview  Maseru - South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the SADC Facilitator, will pay an official visit to the Kingdom of Lesotho on Thursday, 18 September 2014.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to visit Lesotho as SADC Facilitator, Thursday 18 September 2014 Departing from OR Tambo Airport. Interview Maseru - South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the SADC Facilitator, will pay an official visit to the Kingdom of Lesotho on Thursday, 18 September 2014.

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About two weeks before Nquthu went to the polls, a bizarre thing happened during the ANC election campaign that – at least partially – explains why the governing party’s all-out bid to take control of the northern KwaZulu-Natal town failed so miserably.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, deployed to campaign with the provincial leadership, arrived in Nquthu’s Ward 15 with his security entourage, ready to launch a charm offensive on residents ahead of Wednesday’s by-election.

Ramaphosa was clearly raring to go, but there was one small hitch – no senior member of the provincial leadership was there to receive him. Provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala had absented himself from Ramaphosa’s earlier engagements, while secretary Super Zuma, who had accompanied Ramaphosa on the campaign trail the previous day, had seemingly dematerialised.

Ramaphosa stood around taking selfies with ANC volunteers while waiting for somebody to receive him and get things started.

The backlash after his speech at a cadre forum called by the South African National Civic Organisation in nearby Newcastle had begun.

An enraged Super Zuma refused to campaign with Ramaphosa because he had attended the meeting, which was used by ousted premier and ANC chairperson Senzo Mchunu to endorse Ramaphosa.

Deputy secretary Mluleki Ndobe eventually accompanied Ramaphosa throughout the ward, with the day’s proceedings, like the rest of the ANC’s schizophrenic campaign, lurching ahead with a massive amount of bling, motorcades and distribution of yellow T-shirts.

It was clear that the ANC was not only fighting the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and 12 other parties in the by-election that was called after the municipality repeatedly failed to elect an executive.

The governing party – rent apart by escalating internal divisions between the backers of a Ramaphosa presidential bid and supporters of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the unofficial presidential choice of the KwaZulu-Natal leadership, ahead of its December elective conference – was also fighting a brutal battle against itself.

As much as the ANC top six, Dlamini-Zuma and other national executive committee members campaigned for the ANC, they also used the platform this provided to take potshots at each other rather than focus on dealing with the opposition.

The 14-3 victory by the IFP at ward level – the party now holds 19 of the total 33 seats and an outright majority overall – was not just the result of the ANC being at war with itself.

The National Freedom Party, whose break away from the IFP gave it and the ANC control of Nquthu, albeit briefly, was completely wiped out in Nquthu, its stronghold, taking only enough votes for a single proportional representation seat on the council.

Likewise, the “Zuma factor”, which has drawn rural voters from the IFP since 2009, is dead and buried, with the president’s address at the inappropriately named Siyanqoba rally last Sunday clearly falling on deaf ears.

The politics of bling – with the governing party focusing on flashy and disruptive motorcades, high-profile personalities and a general show of muscle and money – also failed dismally, with even the two wards taken from the IFP last August being wrestled back from the ANC.

The ANC’s formidable election machine was brought to bear on Nquthu – one colleague likened it to taking an RPG-7 grenade launcher to a stick fight – but to no avail. With 2019 around the corner, the ANC’s brains will have to go back to the drawing board as the election template it uses no longer works.

For the ANC’s provincial leadership, the implications of Nquthu don’t end with the loss of the council and the Umzinyathi District Municipality. With their hold on power already threatened by a high court challenge by Mchunu’s supporters, their position is precarious.

Somebody will have to account for the rout at Nquthu if a repeat is to be avoided in 2019.

Read more on:    anc  |  cyril ­ramaphosa  |  politics

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