News / Africa

Analysts Say Ruling African National Congress Facing Electoral Defeat in Traditional Stronghold

Port Elizabeth could make political history during upcoming local government elections by rejecting ANC rule

This is Part 4 of a 5-part series: Municipal Elections in South Africa
Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

“We’re basically dysfunctional. If we weren’t so close to an election, I would be calling for us to be placed under administration [of central government],” said Leon de Villiers, veteran Port Elizabeth city councilor.

Opposition candidate for mayor of Port Elizabeth, Leon de Villiers
Opposition candidate for mayor of Port Elizabeth, Leon de Villiers


He’s running for mayor of the city for main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance [DA]. Port Elizabeth, on South Africa’s south coast, is the hub of the country’s motor industry and the economic heartbeat of the largely impoverished Eastern Cape province.

It forms the primary part of a municipal region called Nelson Mandela Bay, named in honor of South Africa’s legendary former president, who, like many ANC stalwarts, was born in the Eastern Cape. The region once formed the bedrock of the anti-apartheid struggle.

Port Elizabeth has been under the control of the ANC since the nation’s first local government elections in 1995. But de Villiers says the city is now a “dishonor” to Mandela, the man who did so much to overthrow white minority rule.

“Since 2009, we have been plunged into a complete financial crisis. We are for all intents and purposes bankrupt,” he said.

‘Everything’s stagnating’

De Villiers blames the crisis largely on massive costs and “poor budgeting and mismanagement” by the ANC relating to South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 soccer World Cup. Port Elizabeth, as one of the competition’s centers, spent 3.4 billion rands [US$ 500 million] to upgrade the city for the world’s biggest sports tournament.Much of the costs were unforeseen, and local ratepayers have had to pay almost 880 million rands [US$ 132 million] towards the debt.

The ANC says it’s responsible for much of the development of the beachfront playground of Port Elizabeth in recent years
The ANC says it’s responsible for much of the development of the beachfront playground of Port Elizabeth in recent years


De Villiers said the World Cup left Port Elizabeth with arguably one of the best sports stadiums in the world, but at a “huge” price.

It’s a wonderful facility, he said, but unfortunately the city paid 578 million rands [US$ 86 million] more for it than originally expected. “All this cost has left us with a cash crisis. The minute one is as cash strapped as we are now, service delivery plunges to an all-time low.”

As a result of the World Cup “overspend,” de Villiers added, Port Elizabeth no longer had any money to deliver essential services, such as water, electricity and housing, to its citizens. He added, “We’re not maintaining our parks, we’re not maintaining our cemeteries; we’re not maintaining our sewerage works.… Health services, roads maintenance – everything’s stagnating.”

Approached for reaction, ANC provincial local government minister Mlibo Qoboshiyane said he wasn’t able to comment on municipal issues in Port Elizabeth. He referred VOA to the regional secretary of the ANC in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, Zandisile Qupe.

ANC mayor of Port Elizabeth Zanoxolo Wayile, center, blows a trumpet before the 2010 soccer World Cup… The DA blames costs associated with the tournament for a financial crisis in the city
ANC mayor of Port Elizabeth Zanoxolo Wayile, center, blows a trumpet before the 2010 soccer World Cup… The DA blames costs associated with the tournament for a financial crisis in the city


But repeated calls to him went unanswered and he did not return any of the numerous messages left for him requesting comment.

Qupe was however recently quoted in Port Elizabeth’s Township Times newspaper as saying, “People of the metro don’t have to read about what the ANC has done; they can see it for themselves. I’m confident the ANC will once again be given the mandate to govern.”

The newspaper reported that while the ANC city council had instituted “small scale development” in Port Elizabeth in recent years, such as tarred roads in townships, houses it had built for poor people were now “caving in” and many residents did not have electricity and toilets.

Drought

The ANC municipality has also been criticized for its response to a drought that’s been afflicting Nelson Mandela Bay for the past two years. Because of its “poor reaction” to the crisis, said de Villiers, Port Elizabeth’s taps could “run dry” very soon.

The DA says the high costs of building the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium mean Port Elizabeth no longer has any money to deliver essential services
The DA says the high costs of building the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium mean Port Elizabeth no longer has any money to deliver essential services


The mayoral candidate warned, “If we run dry it will have a devastating effect on the economy of our area. It will hit our factories very badly; it will have a devastating effect on unemployment, which is already at very serious levels.”
De Villiers said the ANC had “inexplicably” failed to take action to avert a disaster, despite several “emergency measures” being available to alleviate the drought.

“We have excess water coming to us from the north, which is an area called the Gariep Dam, which is actually overflowing at the moment, and the excess water is running into the sea,” he declared. “To be able to harvest that water for this metro we need to put in additional pipes and treatment works here.”

Opposition parties and Port Elizabeth residents say service delivery in the Eastern Cape has deteriorated dramatically under the ANC. This photograph shows a defaced road sign in the province, with vandals registering protest against poor roads in Cacadu
Opposition parties and Port Elizabeth residents say service delivery in the Eastern Cape has deteriorated dramatically under the ANC. This photograph shows a defaced road sign in the province, with vandals registering protest against poor roads in Cacadu


De Villiers explained that while the central government had given the Port Elizabeth municipality 450 million rands [US$ 67 million] towards this, another 350 million rands [US$ 52 million] was needed to bring the project to fruition. He added that the local authorities could also end the drought by establishing a desalinization plant to harvest and process seawater to make it potable.

“We’ve got all the plans for it; we’ve got the location; we’ve had the environmental [impact] studies done; we just need the funding,” said de Villiers.

But, instead of approaching private firms to partner with it, and to thereby provide the outstanding funds for either of these projects, he said, the ANC council had done “nothing.”

DA sees opportunity

As a result of the ANC’s “failures” in Port Elizabeth, the DA clearly regards the forthcoming polls as its best opportunity yet to snatch the city from the ruling party.

ANC Eastern Cape local government minister Mlibo Qoboshiyane: not able to comment about local government issues in Port Elizabeth
ANC Eastern Cape local government minister Mlibo Qoboshiyane: not able to comment about local government issues in Port Elizabeth


“Our optimism is based firstly on the election results in 2009, where we had a general election and we reduced the support for the ANC in this metro by 20 percent,” de Villiers maintained.

The DA mayoral candidate’s confidence isn’t misplaced, according to political analyst Marius Roodt, writing in the journal of the South African Institute of Race Relations. He pointed out that in 2009 ANC support had dropped to just over 50 percent of the vote in Port Elizabeth, from a previous high of over 70 percent.

If the voting on May 18 follows this pattern, say observers, the DA will need to boost its support in the city by only a small margin and perhaps form an alliance with another minor opposition party in order to gain control of the municipality.

The ANC said it had built many houses for Eastern Cape citizens over the past few years, but the DA says many of the homes have fallen down
The ANC said it had built many houses for Eastern Cape citizens over the past few years, but the DA says many of the homes have fallen down


De Villiers said the DA has also been “greatly encouraged” by its ability to deliver services in municipal regions it already controls in the Eastern Cape. “The best run municipality in the Eastern Cape is Baviaans; it’s had a DA mayor for 10 years,” he said.



ANC shambles in Eastern Cape

Ahead of the elections, the ANC in the Eastern Cape appears to be in disarray. Some party officials stand accused of plotting to murder senior ANC provincial leaders, as a result of political rivalry. Disgruntled ANC members, protesting against some of their party’s election policies, have stormed the ANC’s provincial headquarters, beating up a senior party representative and damaging ANC property.

The ANC in Port Elizabeth points to improvements such as this new fire station as proof of its good work in the city
The ANC in Port Elizabeth points to improvements such as this new fire station as proof of its good work in the city


“In recent times the ANC here has tumbled down a slippery slide where the infighting in its own ranks has been unbelievably high,” said de Villiers. “Their indifferences have spilt into public, into council meetings. On one occasion we’ve even had 13 ANC councilors voting with the DA on certain resolutions that were taken – because there are people within the ANC who are concerned at…the lack of service delivery and the dysfunction of our administration.”

But de Villiers insists the DA’s focus is less on the ANC and more on ending the “shambles” in Port Elizabeth. “We are not fighting the ANC, in my opinion,” he maintained. “As far as I am concerned, we are fighting poverty; we are fighting for good houses and we are fighting for decent service delivery, including [good] roads, etcetera.”

DA leader Helen Zille at a pre-election rally in Port Elizabeth. The DA is convinced it’ll gain control of the city on May 18
DA leader Helen Zille at a pre-election rally in Port Elizabeth. The DA is convinced it’ll gain control of the city on May 18


If the DA triumphs on May 18, said de Villiers, its “number one challenge” will be to “fight poverty and create jobs.” Then, he said, the party “will immediately consolidate financial and human resources by appointing a competent municipal manger. Our appointments will not be done on political lines or as rewards for friends; we will do them simply on merit.”

De Villiers added, “That manager’s brief will be to make sure that we have competent executive directors in place to take control of the city’s finances.”

Roodt said should the ANC lose the biggest city in the Eastern Cape – the ruling party’s “spiritual and intellectual heartland” - to the DA, it “will be a further blow to the ANC's prestige.”

The analyst continued, “While it is unlikely that any opposition party would manage to wrest control of the Eastern Cape away from the ANC in the foreseeable future, the presence of an efficient, well-run opposition-controlled metro in the province may make the party's supporters more amenable to voting for an opposition party. This will bode well for South African democracy and the country's future.”

And, say other commentators, it could signal the beginning of the end of the ANC’s political hegemony in South Africa.

You May Like

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by a joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop billions of dollars from illegally being moved out of continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid