The ANC kicks off its local election campaign on Sunday at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, following a turbulent month for the governing party.
President Jacob Zuma is expected to address the rally at the venue with an 8000-strong capacity.
Violent service delivery protests erupted in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, earlier this month, with grumblings among community members that the protests were political – linked to infighting and jostling for positions ahead of the upcoming polls.
The ANC held two hotly contested provincial elective conferences – North West and Western Cape – with a threat to challenge the outcome of the latter’s gathering.
The selection of candidates for positions in municipalities heated up in many provinces, with protests reportedly over candidates selected because of their links to the powerful.
This caused tension in branches in the party’s Eastern Cape and Gauteng chapters.
Growing discontent over the billing crisis in Johannesburg, a key municipality, also placed the ruling party on the defensive.
The contentious tolling system in Gauteng caused a public outcry – with ANC ally Cosatu threatened to go on strike unless the system was scrapped. While government was spurred into action over the tolls, suspending the high tariffs announced, the tolling system has not been abandoned.
Political analyst Steven Friedman said it was too early to tell what the impact of events in recent weeks would have on the ANC.
“They do have a problem and it’s twofold. Firstly, they can’t seem to sort out the internal feuding and the contest for local government posts will lead to more feuding.
“Secondly, people on the ground seem to think that the ANC is not listening and not delivering according to expectation,” he said.
He said the party had challenges and it was unclear whether it would be in the position to turn them around ahead of the polls.
Friedman said the problems in the Congress of the People – embroiled in a leadership battle between its founders – and the split in the Inkatha Freedom Party may not necessarily mean more votes for the two more stable parties, the ANC and the Democratic Alliance.
“People may decide not to vote at all,” he said.
Disgruntled ANC voters were also unlikely to vote for an opposition party, they may show their discontent by staying away from the polling stations.
Friedman said manifesto launches were more about packing stadiums to demonstrate the might of political parties than actual substance.
The manifesto launch was preceded by a long-awaited alliance summit between the ANC, the SA Communist Party, Cosatu and the SA National Civics Organisation.
It follows tension in the ruling alliance at the tail-end of last year.
The ANC accused its long-time ally, Cosatu, of taking an “oppositionist stance” toward it after the federation hosted a civil society briefing and excluded the ANC.
This followed a temporary cease-fire between them after the ANC’s national general council in September, following months of tension over the country’s economic trajectory and the ANC’s perceived soft stance against corruption.
The fall-out prompted the ANC to mull disciplining Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, but the idea was eventually canned.
Vavi remained vocal and critical over what he termed the “predatory elite” and “political hyenas” in the ranks of the ruling party.
It was not smooth sailing between the SACP and Cosatu either after Cosatu called on the party to recall its general secretary Blade Nzimande from his Cabinet post to serve the party full time as general secretary.
Cosatu is supporting the ANC in this year’s local elections but this week indicated that it would not back candidates who were lazy, corrupt or incompetent, The Times reported.
Following a meeting of its central executive committee, Cosatu called on the alliance to discipline and expel members involved in manipulation of local election candidate lists.
The ANC’s campaign launch on Sunday was set to be a festive affair with the usual glitz of a Gala Dinner the night before, where an election campaign CD is expected to be launched.
The CD featured artists Arthur, Oskido, Professor, Winnie Khumalo, Chommee and Chicco Twala.
The party said 920 buses would take 50 000 ANC members and supporters to the launch.