Battle for Nelson Mandela Bay heats up as DA and ANC send bigwigs in to lure voters

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An aerial photograph of Gqeberha in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. Photo: KARL SCHOEMAKER
An aerial photograph of Gqeberha in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. Photo: KARL SCHOEMAKER


The battle for the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has reached fever pitch as the country’s two biggest political parties – the ANC and DA – have unleashed their big guns to woo voters ahead of next month’s local government elections.

READ: Protests over candidate lists overshadow Ramaphosa’s visit to East London

A day after ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa – accompanied by provincial chairperson and Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, elections head and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, and national executive committee member and parliamentary chief whip Pemmy Majodina – invaded the metro, the DA followed suit on Monday, launching its manifesto in Helenvale, Gqeberha.

The event was attended by party leader John Steenhuisen, DA Eastern Cape provincial leader and Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Nqaba Bhanga, and federal council chairperson Helen Zille.

Both political parties conducted door-to-door campaigning and held community meetings to urge voters to support them at the polls.

READ: UDM will be kingmaker in Nelson Mandela Bay

Nelson Mandela Bay is a hotly contested area that has been led by a coalition government since 2016, when the ANC lost control of the bay.

In the 2016 elections, the DA got the most votes in the metro with 46.71%, compared with the ANC’s 40.92%. In 2011, the ANC had a slight majority of 52.13% against the DA’s 40.2%.

With none of the parties winning an outright majority in 2016, the DA formed a coalition with smaller parties to form a council, while the ANC was relegated to the opposition benches.

With both parties now wanting a majority government in the metro, it is not surprising that the municipality has become a political battlefield.

Political analyst Nkosikhulule Nyembezi from the Election Monitoring Network said that the ANC hoped to regain ground and win at least 51% of the votes so it can run the metro again.

“[In 2016, voters] felt that if the ANC was out of power and the other parties were governing through a coalition, they [would] see something new. They hoped that the parties forming the coalition would not be corrupt, that they would agree and work together to bring service delivery to the people, but they were disappointed because this was not the case,” said Nyembezi.

READ: Battle for the bay as residents lament poor service delivery

He said the ANC was hoping to capitalise on the voters’ disappointment in the DA-led coalition government.

Nyembezi, however, said that the ANC had no positive record of success in government because it was unseated, and even as the opposition it did not do anything meaningful.

He does not believe that any of the parties will get an outright majority in the metro.

Meanwhile, during the DA’s manifesto launch, Steenhuisen said the party had a plan to turn Nelson Mandela Bay into the bustling metro it can be: 

Our manifesto is not just a wish list of free things. Our manifesto takes into account all real-world constraints such as budgets, human resources, backlogs and maintenance neglect after decades of ANC government.

“It’s a workable, realistic plan built on a foundation of the many successes we have already achieved in local government. A record of action and a promise of more. No other party can offer such a manifesto,” he said.

Steenhuisen said successful towns and cities such as Midvaal, Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Drakenstein and Mossel Bay were all reaping the benefits of multiple consecutive terms of DA governance.

“That’s what we want for Nelson Mandela Bay too. This metro has everything a city needs to prosper – harbours, rail, road networks, spectacular natural beauty and some truly special people. The potential of this metropolitan municipality is enormous. It could be South Africa’s next Cape Town. It should be South Africa’s next Cape Town – a city where people go in search of opportunities, not a place people have to leave,” he said.

READ: DA mayoral hopefuls want outright win

Bhanga urged residents to give the DA a majority win this time around. He said the party’s manifesto revealed plans to bring five years of stability and prosperity to Nelson Mandela Bay residents, and that no other party could offer such.

“The manifesto provides real solutions and real strategies that put the residents first, but to achieve that we need an outright majority government. Only a DA majority government can take Nelson Mandela Bay forward again because the DA gets things done. We need 50% plus one, and we are appealing to residents to be the one,” said Bhanga.


Lubabalo Ngcukana 


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