‘Why we lost the Bay’

 DA mayor Athol Trollip and Mmusi Maimane speak at the party's celebration of winning the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in the 2016 Local Government Election in Port Elizabeth. Picture: Theo Jephta
DA mayor Athol Trollip and Mmusi Maimane speak at the party's celebration of winning the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in the 2016 Local Government Election in Port Elizabeth. Picture: Theo Jephta

A Nelson Mandela Bay ANC regional leader says the appointment of Danny Jordaan as mayor did not prove to be the winning formula that the party had anticipated.

Support for the ANC has dropped dramatically in this metro, which is now likely to be governed by the DA in coalition with other parties.

City Press has obtained a copy of an email written by a member of the ANC’s Regional Task Team (RTT), Crispian “Chippy” Olver, in which he explains what went wrong for the ANC in the local government elections.

Olver is one of 35 members of the RTT, which was set up by the national executive committee following the disbandment of the regional executive committee.

Among other things, Olver cites the “Zuma factor” and “Danny factor”, the low voter turnout and failure to make inroads in the northern areas as some of the reasons for the ANC losing votes in the Bay.

The email titled “Why we lost the Nelson Mandela Bay”, dated August 08 2016, reads:

“Here’s my take – eight reasons why we lost the elections:

We lost the elections in Nelson Mandela Bay despite winning the majority of wards.

This seems to have been driven by two main trends – our traditional township base did not come out in the numbers that we expected, and despite winning the wards, we did so with reduced margins.

The DA, on the other hand, got the vote in the areas they controlled, and so boosted their overall numbers. Here are some of the factors that I think lie behind this.

Voter apathy

Our supporters were sufficiently disgruntled or complacent to have not made the effort to vote.

A lot of them feel that, while they can’t vote for another party, the ANC has ignored them and become too absorbed in its own self-serving interests. The last year under Danny Jordaan was too short to prove a genuine change in heart on our part.

If we want to regain their trust, we need to work hard to prove our credibility and earn people’s respect again.

Our elections machinery

Our organisational machinery for the elections was weak, particularly at branch level. In many branches there was no campaign to speak of.

We were given misleading reports of structures in place that did not in fact exist.

Despite making the resources available to branches to get out the vote, we were unable to translate these into a proper door-to-door campaign.

Poor elections management

At a regional level, many of us RTT and regional election team (RET) leaders did not pull our weight or fulfil our tasks when the going got tough.

The RTT convenor and the head of the RET disappeared for the last two weeks of the campaign.

Most election functions were performed in silos and were not integrated into an effective, cohesive campaign.

Poor marketing and communications

For months before the elections, the media was telling us that we didn’t communicate properly. Our presence in the media was insignificant until the last two weeks.

We started our marketing campaign too late, and never quite caught up with the DA in terms of visibility. Some items never arrived, for instance the branding of taxis.

The ‘Zuma factor’

We underestimated the impact of the moral shenanigans of our national leaders. Mostly, we thought that the impact of Zuma’s poor media profile could be offset by our local politicians and our local track record (admittedly only for a year).

We didn’t have a clear strategy for how to deal with people’s very real concerns about corruption and our national leadership.

The ‘Danny factor’

The Danny factor did not prove decisive. We didn’t make significant inroads into the northern areas and Danny was not a winning formula for our township voters.

Our claims to be rooting out corruption were undermined by the ongoing Fifa scandal.

The regional leadership was ambivalent about using Danny as the face of the campaign, and spent months in a silly process of ignoring the mayoral candidate [Jordaan].

This wasn’t helped by Danny’s failure to work with the ANC campaign machinery or align and integrate his campaign with the ANC.

The province

The ANC provincial leadership continued to meddle in the affairs of the metro, by crudely tampering with the popular outcomes of general branch meetings and public meetings, and imposing candidates aligned with their own interests.

This caused massive unrest and disruption, and left many ANC members alienated and demobilised.

There was no practical support provided for the elections campaign, and the funding that did eventually arrive was insignificantly small and very late.

Self-sabotage

A number of our ANC leaders at branch and regional level were actively trying to sabotage the campaign. Mostly, these comrades were disgruntled as a result of the list process.

In a few dreadful instances, we drove away good comrades into the hands of the opposition or into standing as indepen-dents.”

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