FILE – A change in fortunes sees the ANC facing a multi-pronged offensive against its control of the lucrative eThekwini Metro in next month’s local government elections, says the writer. Enkanini informal settlement residents protest demanding free electricity from the eThekwini municipality. 15.07.20. File photo: Nqobile Mbonambi/African News Agency(ANA)
FILE – A change in fortunes sees the ANC facing a multi-pronged offensive against its control of the lucrative eThekwini Metro in next month’s local government elections, says the writer. Enkanini informal settlement residents protest demanding free electricity from the eThekwini municipality. 15.07.20. File photo: Nqobile Mbonambi/African News Agency(ANA)

ANC faces supporters backlash in stronghold eThekwini

By Opinion, Cyril Madlala Time of article published Oct 3, 2021

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OPINION: While most supporters are unlikely to desert the ANC in droves, many may decide to stay away from the polls as a form of protest. However, the ruling party will muster sufficient support to survive without having to bank on coalition partners, writes Cyril Madlala.

A change in fortunes sees the ANC facing a multi-pronged offensive against its control of the lucrative eThekwini Metro in next month’s local government elections.

The economic hub of KwaZulu-Natal was a haven for the ANC in 2016, when opposition coalitions toppled it from the Metropolitan Municipalities of Johannesburg and Tshwane in Gauteng as well as Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, while Cape Town remained firmly in the hands of the DA.

Out of the 2 132 173 votes cast for all parties in the eThekwini Metro in 2016, an impressive 1 246 512 voted for the ANC as it consolidated the gains it had made while riding on the wave of the popularity of former president Jacob Zuma.

The IFP, which traditionally had been the fiercest rival, had been consigned to the periphery with a paltry 93 414 votes after internal ructions had given birth to Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi’s National Freedom Party.

The then-new kid on the block, the EFF, had announced its dramatic arrival on the KwaZulu-Natal political landscape with a decent 76 639 votes at the polls, thus pointing to a potential new home for disgruntled supporters of former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.

It was the DA that was spreading its wings into traditionally African townships, having consolidated its influence in sprawling former Indian townships such as Phoenix and Chatsworth. Endorsement by 599 073 voters at least gave the ANC something to think about in the future.

What was perhaps not uppermost in the minds of many then was that by this year, the ANC would be contending with various kinds of challenges, mostly of its own making.

As elsewhere in the country, the party is undergoing a painful renewal process which includes introducing new blood in many wards in order to meet its own commitment to 50% and 25% representation of women and youth respectively.

The innovative move to involve communities in the selection of candidates has also resulted in the sidelining of many councillors whose performance since the last election failed to meet the expectations of their constituencies.

Although the renewal drive is happening across the country, in eThekwini, as elsewhere in KwaZulu-Natal, it has played into the hands of those who see in it blatant efforts to weaken and purge from the ANC Zuma-aligned Radical Economic Transformation forces.

Popular former mayor Zandile Gumede who faces corruption charges together with former senior officials and councillors elected with her in 2016, will also not be making a return in November.

Like Zuma, people like Gumede pose a dilemma for the ANC. They draw support and endear themselves to their communities through sheer force of character and conduct that causes discomfort for those who see reckless opportunism in their brand of economic transformation.

Sidelining them because they face criminal charges will provide a stern test for the ANC’s new approach as it seeks to connect again with its disgruntled constituencies fed up with the lack of delivery of basic services.

Some of the failures of the eThekwini Municipality under the ANC have been of disastrous proportions, such as the Isiphingo transit camp where 370 families were placed as far back as 2009, when they were removed from their KwaMnyandu informal settlement for the upgrade of Umlazi sports complex before the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Another 150 families were relocated from Dakota Beach after the floods and storm disasters, also in 2009. For the rest of the country and millions across the globe, the 2010 World Cup legacy is a cherished memory. For those remaining in eThekwini’s transit camps, it remains a nightmare more than a decade later.

Refuse collection services in the biggest Durban township of Umlazi collapsed when the municipality tried to appease the Radical Economic Transformation forces represented by dodgy business forums that demanded a slice of the business but failed to deliver after chasing away companies that had won the contracts.

The Bus Rapid Transit System has been rolled out successfully in other metropolitan municipalities. In eThekwini, it is stalling because influential taxi industry bosses want to protect their interests and those of their ANC allies.

It is such challenges that await whoever wants to occupy the hallowed corridors of the Durban City Hall.

As usual, a plethora of hopeless chance-takers will see their names on the ballot box, hoping to do better than the odd hundreds of votes that they garnered in 2016. The Promise of Freedom Party won 298 votes and the South African Political Party had 346 endorsements – in case its presence was not felt by the electorate. Some 50 independent candidates are also staking their claim to seats in the chamber.

This time around, besides the EFF, the ANC in eThekwini faces more former friends who have turned political foes.

Former MP Dr Makhosi Khoza has ambitions to be eThekwini mayor, under the banner of Herman Mashaba’s Action SA. Erstwhile ANC mayor for Greytown’s Umvoti Local Municipality Philani Mavundla, who was once a prominent backer of Zuma, fancies himself and his Abantu Batho Congress as an answer to the ANC in the metropolitan municipality.

Like the Black First Land First’s mayoral candidate, advocate Thu Ndawo, the new parties may just be irritants to the ANC rather than serious contenders for the throne. The challenge for the ANC is the anticipated backlash from its core base disappointed at the failure to manage differences and the resultant inability to render services properly to the ratepayers.

While most supporters are unlikely to desert the ANC in droves, many may decide to stay away from the polls as a form of protest. However, the ruling party will muster sufficient support to survive without having to bank on coalition partners.

* Madlala is an independent political analyst and former editor of the Independent on Saturday.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

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